Category Archives: Film

The Hate U Give

You might have noticed me mentioning Angie Thomas a bit recently. Before Saturday’s event with her, I wanted to read her books, and ended up reading the second one and watching the film of the first book on DVD. I thought this would be efficient use of my time. One problem now is that I liked the film so much that I might need to read the book too.

Having read On the Come Up, I felt that The Hate U Give exactly mirrored Angie’s writing. I almost sat there nodding my head in agreement with everything, as though I was reading the book. Knowing how most films are not exactly like the novels they are based on, I should probably treat the film with a little pinch of salt. And then read the book.

The Hate U Give

A refreshingly black film, I was aware that I don’t know much at all. I’ve no experience of the lives the characters lead, and it was often hard to hear what they were saying. But that’s me, not them. Just as fans of the books like the fact that the characters speak like them, that goes for the film as well.

The Carter family live in a poor, black neighbourhood, but ambition for their children means that all three are sent to the mostly white school further away. As the main character Starr says, she’s another person when she’s at school. She has to be. And Starr does it so well that none of her friends have an inkling what her real life is like.

Starr is with a childhood friend when he is shot and killed by the police. Her whole life changes. She doesn’t know what to do or whose advice she should take, but eventually she realises she needs to stand up for her friend and do ‘the right thing.’

It’s a bleak situation, handled very well. As Angie said, she needs triumph to balance the trauma, so it’s not all negative. But to stay true to what so many black people face every day, this feels like a hopeless situation. You shouldn’t have to spend every day in fear of what the police will do if they ‘notice’ you. Except this is reality for millions in America.

THE HATE U GIVE

Starr’s family are not perfect, but they work together. Her dad has been in jail, and her mum is another strong mother, just like Bri’s in On the Come Up. There are friends, neighbours, an uncle, even the local crooks.

I rather wish they had not made Starr’s white boyfriend* look like a Republican senator-to-be, but other than that this film was pretty perfect. It’s certainly an eye-opener. The question is whether those who need to see it, will.

(Photo © Erika Doss)

*I understand that the original actor was dropped because he made racist remarks. That proves how necessary books and films like this one are.

Advertisements

More family women

Hindsight often makes me worry I shouldn’t have done that, whatever it was. Like two years ago, when instead of reviewing some suitably woman-ish books on International Women’s Day, I rambled on about Mother-of-witch. But with more hindsight, and a rereading, I came to the conclusion it was OK. As for her, she was more than OK.

Another two years earlier I wrote about her mother, my grandmother, whom I never met. It was the fact that she embroidered five identical stars for Christmas one year. I realise they probably made for fairly affordable Christmas gifts, but it’s still a lot of work, alongside all the day-to-day stuff women do. Mothers. She had five children, this grandmother I never knew.

While we’re on the subject of sewing, her second daughter, my Aunt Motta, was a pro, by which I mean she made a living sewing. And when she didn’t make her living by it, she sewed for the rest of us, plus a little hobby sewing, like the cushion you see here. It was made from the cut-off corners of the lace that edged 18 table cloths. Obvious, when you think about it.

The thrifty cushion

They could all sew. Well, perhaps not Uncle. But then not every uncle wore two red paper napkins tied round his waist (and nothing else). Careful what you get up to, as impressionable 9-year-olds remember the most astonishing things.

But this is International Women’s Day, so let’s move on from Uncle, however much fun he was. He was the one who got the education. Not because he was the eldest, or the cleverest, but because he was the boy.

The eldest child, another girl, my Favourite Aunt, was very intelligent and very capable. She left school at fourteen and started working in her home town’s textile industry. By the time I knew her she was 47 and worked for the textile union, where she ‘looked after the money,’ and rubbed shoulders with future Prime Ministers and other bigwigs in the leading political party. What might have become of her if she’d been able to continue at school?

The baby aunt quite possibly didn’t sew so much, but she certainly knitted, and brought up three cousins for me, and worked nights so she wouldn’t need a babysitter. And when Mother-of-witch needed childcare, she was there. She helped admit half the town’s teenagers to see films at the cinema where she worked, recognising friends of friends. Plus there were all the discounted coats I wore as a child and in my teens.

The thing about these four sisters is that had they got more of an education, they’d definitely have gone further. Not that there was ever anything wrong with where they did end up. We need people who make winter overalls for their nieces – especially if purple – and who has connections in the world of film, or who helps you wee by the side of the road. This kind of assistance should not be underestimated.

The Bookshop

Trailers, eh? I’ve been fooled once or twice in recent memory. Not that I go to the cinema all that often, but I did catch a couple of trailers for The Bookshop, liked them and thought I’d go and see the film when it came.

I’m almost certain it never came. Not here. And that’s interesting in itself. Why ‘trail’ a product you won’t be selling?

When Daughter was last here she assisted the old folk – that’s us, the Resident IT Consultant and me – by compiling a Netflix list of films, making them easier for us to find. And urged by positive noises on social media, we watched The Bookshop a few days ago.

The Bookshop

It had Bill Nighy in it. Not many films don’t, these days. I like Bill. He was good in this one, as well, even if he only ever has the ‘Bill Nighy’ setting. His face after reading Fahrenheit 451..!

The thing is, while it was a pretty decent film, it was nothing like the trailer had led me to expect. I don’t know the book by Penelope Fitzgerald, on which it was based. On the one hand it was another of the popular retro settings, travelling back to the 1950s, and a seaside bookshop being set up by book-loving widow is quite an attractive idea.

On the other hand, there was much nasty behaviour by her neighbours – made worse by today being 2019 – and she was far too kind and polite, as well as perhaps a little naïve. Her helper, played by Honor Kneafsey, was refreshingly observant and outspoken for someone so young.

And being me, I couldn’t help but pick holes in the authenticity of the retro-ness. But apart from expecting a different film, it was good. Not cheerful, so much.

Star Wars: Cobalt Squadron

I would say that any Star Wars fan would like this book, but what do I know? I saw the first Star Wars film 41 years ago, not knowing there’d be more of them. Didn’t understand it, forgot most of what I saw, and I was an embarrassment when I was taken to see one of the more recent films a few years ago.

But yes, I think you’d like Elizabeth Wein’s Cobalt Squadron, which ‘takes place prior to – and contains characters and ships from – The Last Jedi.’ I liked it. But then I like sci-fi, and felt I didn’t need to know more than I do to read it. I trusted Elizabeth – who apparently watched The Empire Strikes Back 13 times as a teenager – to get it right.

It’s got that Carrie Fisher in it, as Leia Organa, and when looking stuff up, I see that the main character in Cobalt Squadron, Rose Tico, was also in the film, so is actually ‘real.’ I liked her. Clever and brave, and good with technical stuff.

Elizabeth Wein, Cobolt Squadron

The story here is about saving Atterra Bravo from the First Order, and the rescue mission undertaken by Rose and others, with the blessing of General Organa. Having to fit in with plots before and after, there is obviously a limit to what can happen, and where, but as I said, I liked it.

It’s good when knowledgeable fans write extra stories to do with what they love so much.

And If I’d known then what I know now, maybe I’d have paid more attention back then, and not got my various robot characters mixed up. I won’t insult or upset you by showing quite what an idiot I was. Still am.

Woman in Gold

We return to a film from a few years ago:

What surprised me the most about Woman in Gold was how much it was about the war. That might sound stupid, but I’d mainly thought about the process of getting a stolen work of art back now, long after the war. And the trailer had been mostly lighthearted, with clever and amusing lines.

Woman in Gold

Don’t misunderstand me; I believe the film was better for all its background, reminding us – and in the case of Daughter, showing for the first time – of what went on in Austria not only during the war, but before it as well. Without it, Maria Altmann could have seemed to be simply greedy and grabbing. In a way this was one of those occasions when you feel that both sides are both right and wrong. Were it not for the fact that Austria took away Maria’s right to the life she was living, when they pulled the rug out from under her feet. As I think she said, it wasn’t so much getting the painting of her aunt back, as getting some recompense for what they did to her family, breaking it up, and killing most of them.

Woman in Gold

I had looked forward to seeing more of Vienna, but in the end it was almost painful. I appreciated seeing the old Vienna, as Maria knew it when she grew up. I’m not Austrian, nor quite that old, but I could recognise some of the life she lived.

Had not realised that Daughter didn’t know what the outcome was going to be, but then it had been some years since we read about Maria and her Klimt painting in the news.

Woman in Gold

I enjoyed Woman in Gold, and more so for it being so European, and not just Hollywood gloss. Helen Mirren can do anything she puts her mind to, and Ryan Reynolds was a lovely Randol Schoenberg. Good to see so many actors employed who are not necessarily English language household names, but who were able to portray Austrians in a believable way.

What about Deborah?

The Breadwinner

When I got to the last page of the Guardian Weekend last week, I stared. It was a film poster for a new animated film called The Breadwinner.

I thought, ‘it might be based on the book by Deborah Ellis.’ I began searching for the proof that it had something to do with this marvellous, if disturbing, tale about the young girl in Afghanistan who ends up as the breadwinner for her family by pretending to be a boy.

But there was nothing. Angelina Jolie gets a prominent mention, as executive producer. Well done. The film is by Nora Twomey. Well done again. There are various quotes about the film’s excellence.

There is some small print, but I am fairly certain that I squinted enough, and Deborah’s name wasn’t there either.

So I googled the film, and lo and behold, it is based on the book. It’s not even pretending not to be. Wikipedia lists her, and an interview with Nora begins by mentioning her.

Deborah Ellis at MMU

Film posters are large. There would have been room for the name of the person who thought up this whole story in the first place. Even if they have altered a lot, there is the sense of the original plot, the original characters.

If Deborah had been a really well known, big name, I suspect it would have been plastered all over the poster.

That said, I look forward to seeing the film. It’s out on May 25th.

Belle and Sébastien

Feeling enthusiastic about Cécile Aubry’s Belle and Sébastien (newly translated by Gregory Norminton), and with the Resident IT Consultant claiming he’d watched it on television as a child (something he rarely admits to), I set about finding out why I only recognised it as a classic book title, but had no recollection of reading the book or being offered it as small screen entertainment.

It made me want to weep. First, because this mid-1960s French children’s novel shows up as a recent film; not even the 1967 television series. Second, because someone has changed the plot so much that they might as well have written a new script about a boy and his dog. And I can find no trace of the book having existed in Swedish translation. I could be wrong, but they are only enthusing about the 2013 film…

Cécile Aubry and Helen Stephens, Belle and Sébastien

This is a lovely book, with illustrations by Helen Stephens done with a real 1960s vibe. Maybe, just maybe, the story is set before the 1964 mentioned in the book, but there are no nazis or fleeing jews and Sébastien’s adopted grandfather does not want to kill the dog Belle. Any nastiness comes from the villagers in this southern Alps French community. That is what the book is about; a boy finding a dog to love, and the ignorant, and scared, villagers wanting to kill the dog they believe is dangerous.

I was thinking that this kind of group unpleasantness would be hard to have in a modern book, and that it clearly shows the passage of time. It works here, though. The period feel is similar to that of I Am David, except this is set almost exclusively in a quiet backwater where the Mayor and the Doctor are the men people listen to.

Sébastien was born in the mountains and his mother died giving birth, so the local gamekeeper brings him up, alongside his own grandchildren. Belle, the dog, was born at the same time, and ends up escaping into the wild when both are six years old. It’s as if they were meant for each other. It’s an easy love to understand. They ‘just’ have to win over the mistrustful villagers who don’t want their children eaten by this ‘beast.’

Really lovely story, which again goes to prove you can have lots of different tales about a boy and his dog.