Thursday, March 31, 2011


I hate to be rude, but we're French


Ratatouille (2007) is like Monsters Inc, a film officially for kids in reality for adults! I like movies that portray life in a world we do not know about: bugs in Bug’s Life, mice in Flushed Away, toys in Toy Story, etc…. With Ratatouille, PIxar studios have outdone themselves, for our great pleasure. Here little rat Remy lives in the country with his family and has a knack for putting together ingredients, and a passion for food, and Chef Gusteau.


From the beginning we are drawn in, as the frame freezes and Remy bursts through a window carrying a book over his head.

Remy: [voiceover] This is me. I think it's apparent that I need to rethink my life a little bit. What's my problem? First of all, I'm a rat. Which means, life is hard. Second, I have a highly developed sense of taste and smell.


After being separated from his family, Remy eventually lands in Paris, where he and a dreamy boy, Linguini, revolutionize Gusteau’s kitchen, out of popularity since the death of its head and since the assassinating critic by Anton Ego. Of course, Remy and Linguini have to work in spite of mean Skinner, the new head of the kitchen, determine to make his the Gusteau’s empire. Obstacles keep rising but Remy is passionate and will prevail. Add a little twist and a little love to the story, and you have the perfect recipe for a good moment.


Skinner: Surely you don't expect me to believe this is your first time cooking?

Linguini: It's not.

Skinner: I KNEW IT!

Linguini: It's my second, third, fourth, fifth time. Monday was my first time.


Linguini: [in dream sequence] Do you know what you would like this evening, sir?

Anton Ego: Yes, I'd like your heart roasted on a spit. Heh heh heh heh. Ha ha ha!


Linguini: You're Anton Ego.

Anton Ego: [chuckles] You're slow for someone in the fast lane.

Linguini: And you're thin for someone who likes food.

[crowd gasps]

Anton Ego: I don't LIKE food. I LOVE it. If I don't love it, I don't SWALLOW.



Ratatouille is mainly about arguing that brilliance and creativity can come from anyone, anywhere, even if it is met with resistance. Said resistance is impersonated both by Skinner and by Anton Ego, the food critic voiced by Peter O'Toole ; though for most of the film he is portrayed as insufferable, he eventually changes his opinion. Maybe the scene is a bit long, but I really wanted to share it.

Animation is a masterpiece, even better than Monsters Inc, and I cannot believe I am saying this! The views of Paris are realistic and breathtaking, giving the movie a sense of realism. All in all, a light hearted and inspiring film.


That said, I have to admit, if I found a rat cooking in my kitchen tomorrow, even fantastic dishes, I cannot guarantee I would just hug it welcome...!


Two inspiring movie quotes to conclude:

Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.


If you focus on what you left behind you will never see what lies ahead

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Something's Gotta Give

I cannot get over the fact I did not recognize brilliant Diane Keaton in The Godfather. So I would like to talk about a movie where she is just radiant: Something’s Gotta Give, released in 2003, directed by Nancy Meyers, and staring my not so favourtie Jack Nicholson, Amanda Peet, Keanu Reeves and Frances McDormand.

Harry Sanborn (Nicholson) is a 60-year old who dates only women below 30. On a weekend with his latest Fling Marin (Peet) he meets her mother Erica (Keaton) and her sister (McDormand). As he suffers a heart attack and needs rest, he ends up being stuck with Erica for a few days, while the others have to go back to the city. The initial animosity between Harry and Erica gradually turns into something more affectionate.

So, yes, you should upfront this is a story without any real surprise, and you can see the end coming well before it happens. But it is also witty and subtle, full of humour. I had not laughed that much in a long time.


Harry: I've never seen a woman her age naked before.

Julian Mercer: You're kidding.

Harry: Hey! We're not all doctors, baby.


Harry: I just have one question: What's with the turtlenecks? I mean it's the middle of summer.

Erica: Well I guess I'm just a turtleneck kind of gal.

Harry: You never get hot?

Erica: No.

Harry: Never?

Erica: Not lately.


Harry: I have never lied to you, I have always told you some version of the truth.

Erica Barry: The truth doesn't have versions, okay?


We are instantly drawn in, the atmosphere is colourful, the soundtrack incredible, and all elements blend perfectly to produce a fun story that touches on the "men vs women" topic, but without pushing too far.

Jack Nicholson is clearly having fun, and provides an image of a bachelor, close to his real life image, without hesitating to make fun of himself, and in the end proving there is more depth to his character than he lets on. Diane Keatin plays Erica, who is wounded by her past experience, yet passionate and willing to give love a chance: after Harry leaves her, she starts dating young doctor Julian(Reeves), who is mesmerized by her beauty and charm. Nice role for Reeves, different from Matrix, that he repeated, although with less depth, in the Lake House (2006).

I do not have words good enough to express my admiration for Diane Keaton’s performance: she is simply amazing. While Harry really looks his 60 years, Diane Keaton could easily be 45 – I wish I can look like her when I am 60! She is just perfect and the chemistry between Keaton and Nicholson in this film is glowing and palpable and makes this fairly standard story a little gem. Great supporting cast too: Frances McDormand is hilarious as Erica’s down to earth sister, Amanda Peet is great.


An excellent moment, a lot of laughs, beautiful scenes (the house Erica lives in is literally my dream house), and two legendary actors. Excellent distraction, perfect balance between romcom and must-see. Something to keep for gloomy days, and to watch over and over again.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Godfather

I wonder why I waited so long to watch it. The Godfather is a movie adapted from the book of the same name by Mario Puzo and directed by Francis Ford Coppola – it is the first of a series of three movie, and was released in 1972. It is arguably a movie that everyone has heard about.


The story takes place over many years in the late 1940s, telling the story of Vito “Don” Corleone, his sons Michael (Al Pacino), Santino (James Caan) and Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), his associates, and their interactions with other mafia syndicates. There have been so many reviews about The Godfather I doubt I will say something new about it but here it is.

Not many movies can last 3 hours and keep the interest of the audience. I loved also that there was so many memorable scenes and lines that are part of our general knowledge.


Clemenza: Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.


Michael: My father made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

Kay Adams: What was that?

Michael: Luca Brasi held a gun to his head, and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract.


Don Corleone: You look terrible. I want you to eat, I want you to rest well. And a month from now this Hollywood big shot's gonna give you what you want.

Johnny Fontane: Too late. They start shooting in a week.

Don Corleone: I'm gonna make him an offer he won't refuse.


The opening shot of sets the tone of the film as Don Corleone listens to Bonasera pleading for justice for the brutal beating suffered by his daughter.


Bonasera: I believe in America. America has made my fortune.


Don Corleone: Why did you go to the police? Why didn't you come to me first? What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully? If you'd come to me in friendship, then this scum that ruined your daughter would be suffering this very day. And if, by chance, an honest man like yourself should make enemies . . . then they would become my enemies. And then they would fear you.



This movie has an amazing casting: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, James Caan, and Diane Keaton. I am ashamed to say I did not recognize Diane Keaton, even though I love her in every single movie I have ever seen, and I was really amused when I realized James Caan is the guy playing Ed in the Las Vegas TV series! All characters fit in perfectly, the tone is correct for every scene and all actors show their talent fully.


We see Michael Corleone, who never wanted to take part in the family business (That's my family Kay, that's not me), lose his innocence and turn into a ruthless successor for his father. His gradual transformation is the heart of the film - from gentle to cold-blooded, he learns from his father never to talk in front of outsiders and always keep his own counsel... His order: "Never take sides against the Family." My view is that he turns ruthless when he loses his wife Apollonia.

Al Pacino does a great job displaying Michael's rise to power.


Marlon Brando’s performance as the godfather alone is stunning, and he is magnetic as Don Corleone – he comes along perfectly as the head of the family, nice to his friends, ruthless to his enemies. I thought he was hot in A Streetcar named Desire - a few years later, he has not aged very well and I would never have recognized him. That said, he is incredibly perfect for the role.


So, we are talking about the mafia here – but the Corleone family is not portrayed as bad people: I found myself cheering for them, no matter what happened. I even found Don Corleone fairly sympathetic. There is violence, yes – the death of Sonny is particularly hard to watch, so is the death of Moe Green, and I am still shaking thinking about the horse’s head. But in the movie, you should note there is no “civilian” victim: everyone who dies deserves to ; we do not see women forced to be prostitutes, we do not see people trapped into gambling, and, in the end, the only police officer we see is corrupt.


One final comment on the scene of the baptism, towards the end: the building of tension, the music behind, the alternation of violence, just perfect


A couple of interesting facts:

  • The  line "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse" was voted as the no 10 "100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007.

  • Coppola worked with his family in this film : his sister Talia Shire plays Connie, Michael’s sister, his mother Italia is an extra in the restaurant meeting, his father Carmine is the piano player in the Mattress sequence, his sons Gian-Carlo and Roman can be seen in the scene where Sonny beats up Carlo and at the funeral - and his daughter Sofia is the baby in the baptism.

The Godfather has “classic“ written all over, I do not see how you could be disappointed.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino is known for is appetite for blood and violence. Inglourious Basterds (2009) is no exception. It stars Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent (Le Concert), Diane Kruger and Christoph Waltz, a real discovery. The name is derived from the movie The Inglorious Bastards (1978), by Enzo Castellari, who plays a German general in Inglourious Basterds as a friendly reference. Hence the wrong spelling of the name.
"Once upon a time, in Nazi-occupied France", we follow the paths of Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), part of the SS and nicknamed the "Jew Hunter", of Shosanna Dreyfus, whose entire family was killed by Landa and who managed to escape, and of the “Basterds”, a group of Jewish American soldiers who kill and scalp Nazis, led by Lieutenant Aldo Raines (Brad Pitt). The stories are intertwined and connect as the movie moves forward.


Lt. Aldo Raine: Every German we meet wearing a Nazi uniform... they're gonna die.


Lt. Aldo Raine: You probably heard we ain't in the prisoner-takin' business; we in the killin' Nazi business. And cousin, business is a-boomin'.

Two separate plots to kill the entire Nazi establishment finally meet and collide, thus ending the war. So, clearly, this is not a historical movie, and it has no historical accuracy whatsoever! This is a bit like the Asterix series, a fun, yet violent tale, in a war context in France.

A fun fact, like Hitchcock in his films, Quentin Tarantino appears in the movie, where he plays the first scalped Nazi.

What really makes the movie go is how big this is – I saw critics that said how unrealistic it all is: well, sorry, but if you want realistic, you do not watch Tarantino movies! This is not as “cartoon like” as Kill Bill (well, at least Volume 1), and Brad Pitt is brilliant. Everything is completely over the top, and that is why it is so great. The introduction of Hugo Stiglitz (played by Til Schweiger) is, to me, the point where it all goes from what I would call a “normal”, albeit a bit unrealistic story, to pure delirium. Love it, love it.

Narrator: The reason for Hugo Stiglitz's celebrity among German soldiers is simple. As a German enlisted man, he killed thirteen Gestapo officers, mostly Majors. Instead of putting him up against a wall, the High Command decided to send him back to Berlin, to be made an example of. Needless to say, once the Basterds heard of him, he never got there.

Apart from Hans Landa, chilling as an SS officer, the rest of the Nazis are portrayed as losers: Hitler almost getting nervous ticks when he hears the names “Basterds” or “Bear Jew) or Goebbels as a movie artist concerned only about his movie are hilarious. This is not necessarily to everyone’s taste, but Tarentino does not care if he offends, and that is what makes it great to watch. Of course, everything should not be taken at face value, it is not first degree humour

Adolf Hitler: [at the premiere of "Nation's Pride"] Extraordinary, my dear. Simply extraordinary. This is your finest film yet.
Joseph Goebbels: [Goebbels' eyes fill with tears] Thank you, mein Führer. Thank you.

We are also able to see the war from the British, American, German soldiers, and from French civilians, collaborators or resistance.

Shosanna Dreyfus: [to Fredrick] If you are so desperate for a French girlfriend, I suggest you try Vichy.

Shosanna Dreyfus: [threatening a French film developer] You either do what the fuck we tell you, or I'll bury this axe in your collaborating skull.
 Brad Pitt as Lieutenant Raines is great, I thought it was a good change compared to his usual “I look good, I am a bad boy” roles like in Fight Club or Ocean’s Eleven, or “Look at how pretty I am” like in Meet Joe Black. Don't get me wrong, I liked those movies, a lot, but I am getting a bit tired of him. It happens. But not here!


Christoph Waltz is simply amazing as Hans Landa. He is the only character that is terrifyingly credible as a Nazi, from the start, when he interviews Perrier LaPadite, playing with him so he will reveal what he cannot reveal, being seemingly friendly and understanding, but threatening at the same time (“Monsieur LaPadite, to both your family and your cows I say: Bravo”) and getting him exactly where he wants him, and being ruthless. He is the kind of person who knows everything and likes to play cat and mouse with his victims. It is impossible to escape him – the scene at the theater, where he starts speaking fluent Italian to the three confused Basterds, is hilarious. Plenty of other scenes featuring him are excellent, especially towards the end.


Hans Landa: [to a bound and blindfolded Lt. Aldo] You've had a nice long run, Aldo. Alas, you're now in the hands of the SS.

[raises hands in a dramatic manner]

Hans Landa: My hands, to be exact. And they've been waiting a long time to touch you.

[fingers reach out and poke Lt. Aldo in the face; Lt. Aldo flinches]

Hans Landa: [chuckling] Caught you flinching.


Col. Hans Landa: [opens a bottle of Chianti] yes, some Germans will die, and yes, it will ruin the evening, and yes, Goebbels will be very, very, very mad at you for what you've done to his big night... but you won't get Hitler, you won't get Goebbels, you won't get Göring, and you won't get Bormann. And you need all four to win the war. But if I don't pick up this phone right here, you may very well get all four... and if you get all four, you'll end the war... tonight.


Col. Hans Landa: [to Aldo] So you're "Aldo the Apache".

Lt. Aldo Raine: So you're "the Jew Hunter".

Col. Hans Landa: A detective. A damn good dectective. Finding people is my specialty so naturally I work for the Nazis finding people, and yes some of them were Jews. But "Jew Hunter"? It's just a name that stuck.

Pfc. Smithson Utivich: Well, you do have to admit, it is catchy.

Col. Hans Landa: Do you control the nicknames your enemies bestow on you? "Aldo the Apache" and "the Little Man"?

Pfc. Smithson Utivich: What do you mean "the Little Man"?

Col. Hans Landa: Germans' nickname for you.

Pfc. Smithson Utivich: The Germans' nickname for me is "the Little Man"?

Col. Hans Landa: And as if to make my point, I'm a little surprised how tall you were in real life. I mean, you're a little fellow, but not circus-midget little, as your reputation would suggest.

The amazing cast makes the movie great, and Christoph Waltz in particular. It is a must-see, but be prepared for some violent images, and a lot of blood.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Driving Miss Daisy


Driving Miss Daisy is a 1989 film adapted from a play by the same name, written by Alfred Uhry, who got a Pulitzer prize for his work in 1988. The film was directed by Bruce Beresford and stars Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman and Dan Ackroyd.I am generally a fan of Morgan Freeman, who is just incredible in every single movie he makes. Here he plays with an incredible sensitivity, and is just right.


When Daisy (Tandy), an elderly woman, has a car accident, her son Boolie (Ackroyd) hires Hoke (Freeman) to drive her around. At first he is not welcome:

Idella: I wouldn't be in your shoes if the Sweet Lord Jesus come down and asked me himself.
Idella: I'm goin', Miss Daisy.
Daisy Werthan: [from upstairs] Alright Idella, see you tomorrow.
Hoke Colburn: I'm goin' too, Miss Daisy.
Daisy Werthan: Good!

Reluctant at first, Daisy soon has to accept Hoke’s help and, over the years, a strong bond develops.

The story focuses on Miss Daisy, and revolves around her life: at home, at the synagogue, with her friends, family. We never see what Hoke’s life is when he is not with her.

Hoke does not speak much but knows a lot – he remains the same throughout, whereas Daisy has mood swings and goes from being very pleasant to very unpleasant. Gradually she opens up to him, up until the end where she tells him “you’re my best friend”. Tandy and Freeman carry the movie, and are both amazing. The movie is set in Georgia, and a scene in particular is touching: Hoke and Miss Daisy are driving to Alabama, and they have parked on the side of the road for a picnic. Two cops stop and are for the papers, showing a bad attitude towards this unsual tandem: An old nigger and an old Jew woman takin' off down the road together... that is one sorry sight. That does not prevent the two of them to be fond of each other, to the point that in the end Daisy prefers spending time with Hoke than with her son:


Boolie Werthan: Hoke, I thought of you the other day on the expressway. I saw an Avondale Milk truck. Monster of a thing, must have had about sixteen wheels. 
Hoke Colburn: You don't say!
Boolie Werthan: I was wondering how you'd like drivin' that thing around!
Daisy Werthan: [to Boolie] Hoke came to see me, not you!
Hoke Colburn: Look like one o' her good days!
Daisy Werthan: Boolie, go charm the nurses!
Boolie Werthan: [smiling] She wants you all to herself.

Very sweet movie, about patience, dedication and dignity. A bit slow at times, but generally a good moment, and two brilliant actors.