Thursday, 11 February 2016

The Shop Around the Corner vs You've Got Mail

In the spirit of Valentine's Day this weekend, this is as close as I get to talking about the day. I'm not a huge fan of the day as it's really aimed at couples and makes single people feel bad which isn't great. It's a day that likes to exclude people. But if people celebrate it then they celebrate it. At the very least, I thought that a post about a brilliant classic film and a rom-com from the 90's would be in keeping with the spirit of the day.

The two films I'm talking about are the 1940 film directed by Ernst Lubitsch, The Shop Around the Corner and Nora Ephron's 1998 version, You've Got Mail.

I used to despise You've Got Mail with a passion. But recently, I've found a new connection to 90s rom-coms. If you compare them to some of the drival that has been released this side of the millennium, you start to see the quality that was lost. After seeing You've Got Mail again after years, I can see its virtues as well as it's flaws. As for The Shop Around the Corner, I saw it for the first time just before Christmas. I took my friend (who also loves classic films) as part of a Christmas present. I loved the film and of course I noticed instant similarities to You've Got Mail but enjoyed them more, this may because I still love, what is now known as, the art of letter writing, rather than email. I actually ended up renting The Shop Around the Corner again off itunes just to relive the experience. But nothing quite compares to sitting in those comfy chairs at BFI.

The Shop Around the Corner, based in the Hungarian play, Parfumerie, by Miklos Laszlo, is about two shop assistants, Alfred and Klara (James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan), who despise each other at work but have unknowly fallen in love with each other through annoymous letters. It's a simple enough story that also includes a group of other sales assistants all weird and wonderful, as well as manager who tries to keep up with all his demanding wife's (off screen) requests that are mainly for money. He later finds out she is having an affair and suspects that it is with his longest serving and most loyal employee, Alfred. But this is just not true

As the film is adapted from a play, the shop plays a large part of the story as the central location. The potential lovers meet, argue, bond, declare their love in the shop, Matuschek and Company. They meet after Klara asks for a job, but Alfred who thinks she's looking to buy gets annoyed and tries to turn her away. After she lands an impossible sale, she is given a job and made to work under Alfred. This is the start of the love-hate relationship. It's a classic meet queue that many rom-com's use now. I've always loved stories that start off in this way, when characters hate each other so much there must be something else simmering just beneath the surface.

What sets The Shop Around the Corner apart from the 90's counterpart is the use of a few devices mixed together. Love/hate at first sight, love is blind and the art of letter writing. Before we had internet dating, social media and phones, letter writing was a very powerful thing, in terms of affection, emotion and truths. I know there are phones in the film but they weren't used to woo anyone. Through letters Klara and Alfred fell in love after only wishing to correspond with someone who was intelligent and cultured, they created a connection and in a way created a close proximity. Letter writing is also linked with romance, it isn't just a way to communicate. If you want to make a message personal, it seems more meaningful when handwritten.

 I'll always remember what a friend told me, her opinion of what love is, time and proximity. I thought this was spot on, especially concerning Klara and Alfred. Over the course of the story they start out just talking about intellectual subjects then move on to literature and eventually to their feelings for each other. While in the shop, they bicker and argue, mostly in the stock room. When Alfred finds out Klara is the woman in the letters, instead of confronting her he mocks her and pretends her 'date' hasn't shown up. All his feelings are hindered because he knows who she is. But, after they insult each other to a breaking point, he changes and starts to see what he's done and falls in love with her all over again. She, not knowing his identity seeks out his friendship and help, confiding in him about the letters. As they work together, now as friends, Klara starts to doubt her connection with her pen pal and grow closer to Alfred. Over time writing letters and working with one another in close proximity, their love grows and leads up to a declaration, and of course, it takes place on the shop floor.

The 90's rom-com doesn't credit The Shop Around the Corner, it credit's Parfumerie by Miklos Laszlo. There is the obvious reference though as Kathleen's bookshop is named about the 1940 film. Despite this, both 40s and 90s films are rather similar. Changing the setting to New York and having the lovers become rivals, a independant children's bookshop owner and a mega chain bookstore owner.

Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) owns the children's bookstore which was owned by her mother before her. She and her group of kooky sales assistants are a part of the community. They hold events, signings and as well as having the knowledge of children's books, they also know all their loyal customers by name. Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) is also part of family run business, except his is a gigantic chainstore, Fox Books (similar to Waterstones and Boarders before it shut down). He is in charge of a new store opening in Kathleen's neighbourhood and has the potential to force her to close down. While all this is happening, Joe and Kathleen have already met using screen names in an online chat room, unknown by their partners. They have been emailing back and fourth, nothing romantic, yet. Bit by bit they open up to each other. Things start to shift when they meet in person, still blissfully unaware of their online connection and blossoming romance. Even then they 'hit it off' as it were. But as soon as they know each others names, which they find out at a literature folk gathering, they hate each other instantly. They fight in person and online confide in each other again, bringing them closer together.

The film goes a similar way as its predecessor, they plan to meet but Joe finds out who she is and stands Kathleen up and attempts to interupt her meeting. They say things they regret and part ways. Kathleen is forced to close her store and retreats. But Joe misses her and continues to talk to her online, hoping in some way that she'll fall in love him as Joe Fox and not as NY152 (his screen name). He makes friends with her and then 'accidentally' bumps into her on a frequent basis. Eventually, she agrees to meet her online love and is delighted that its Joe.

There are two elements that are in this film that are not present in The Shop Around the Corner, they are books and email. The romance, I believe, in The Shop Around the Corner is stemmed from the closeness the characters share and from their letters. In You've Got Mail, all communication is done through email, which feels colder and less romantic. This was obviously applied to update the story and fit with the times. Back in 1998, the internet and email were still in the early stages, chat rooms were also quite new. I've heard people refer to this film as a rom-com for the AOL generation and I think this is true. So, in order to retain the romance, books play a huge part of the story. Books, again, I think, are just romantic in general and beautifully crafted. They are also seen as nostalgic, especially with Kathleen as she runs a children's bookstore which in turn holds memories of her mother and the past. Joe sees his bookstores as the future, the larger store where people can feel like they're at home. Of course, for this generation, we need to enjoy this while we can as too many bookstores are disappearing. Books are what brings Kathleen and Joe together in person and what creates the closeness. They already have a connection, having both been involved in family run businesses, even if they are at different levels. The time and proximity theory can also be applied to You've Got Mail in a similar way that it applies to The Shop Around the Corner. Kathleen and Joe work in the same business and are forced to see and interact with each other due to their rivalry and then via email they slowly fall in love. Joe then endears himself to Kathleen, first becoming her friend and then by seeing her so often, the connection they so obviously have online spills out to real life.

Overall, the running theme throughout both versions, as they are both adapted from Parfumerie by Miklos Laszlo, is that love is blind. Both couples are blinded by they're dislike of one another in person that they cannot open up until they believe they are talking to a perfect stranger and share their true feelings. The love/hate relationship in both films are structured and played out well but unlike Kathleen, Klara admits to being attracted to and a little bit in love from the very start in person. Kathleen only starts to fall in love with Joe in person near the end of the film. Joe, also only realises that he wants something more in his life when he's trapped in a lift with his annoying girlfriend, only then does he pursue Kathleen. Alfred doesn't do this. He changes his mind about Klara not long after the doomed date in the cafe. Later on he actively tries to deter Klara away from the writing companion in the hopes that she still feels the same way as she did when they first met. There is more hope and heart and charm in The Shop Around the Corner. The simplicity of the story and how Klara and Alfred's relationship plays out feels more romantic. Where as You've Got Mail has more of a comedic vibe that it tries to shake off too far into the film. There is something to be said for letter writing as here it wins the day and wins my heart. A more personal touch than clicking a button on a screen, so for me, The Shop Around the Corner would wins this round.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

For The Love Of Star Wars

It's another Star Wars post but this time its about The Force Awakens, sort of. Now that the buz has died down and there are barely fans out there that haven't seen the film, I feel it is safe to write about it. There are still major spoilers, or things I consider spoilers but I have given fair warnings with this epic sign:


Permission to speak freely? Granted. First off, I didn't really know the full extend of how much I love Star Wars. I've heard people say 'I prefer Star Trek' or 'I'm not really into Sci-fi', I've even heard someone say 'I'm more of a Lord of the Rings fan'. I've always thought of myself as a massive Lord of the Rings fan, which is surprising as I can't think of any other fantasy type film or TV show I love, comics aside - Fables, House of Mystery, they're full of fantasy - but I absolutely love Lord of the Rings. You can't actually compare the two, LOTR and Star Wars, two different genres to start with. My loyalties lie with both.

My love for Star Wars does have its limits, as with most things, the want and the 'can I actually afford this' are usually in question. I regret that I wasn't able to go/afford the Secret Cinema Star Wars event. I know other fans wanted to go but my gad the tickets were expensive. But my limit in seeing the film on the big screen, there is none. I know I know, people say why see it again if you've seen it once. But I say to them, what is the possibility that I will see the film again on the big screen? Especially the IMAX. I saw The Force Awakens 3 times and I'm happy with that. 

Watching the original trilogy to build up to the main event was a wise choice. It had been ages since I saw all three. Not long ago, The Empire Strikes Back was used for a film drinking game - most enjoyable. With those fresh in my mind, the viewing experience of The Force Awakens was that little bit better. 

The film did everything you wanted. Stabalising a new set of films as well as opening up the Star Wars universe to stand alone features as well continuing the main story arc. New characters were introduced, breathing new life into galaxy and bringing back old characters too meant that there was enough familiarity to feel at ease with the storytelling.

The film begins as if no time has passed, meaning, straight into the scrolling narration, setting the scene and expectations high and that we most likely will not see Luke Skywalker anytime soon.  

Domhnall Gleeson, Irish actor, cast as the villain, along with Gwendoline Christie, British actress, and a heavily disguised Andy Serkis, it seems the film is falling into the same trap about villains and the Brits. But wait, there is a new hope (see what I did there), Rey played by Daisy Ridley and Fin played by John Boyega are boths Brits and they're the good guys, even though the latter has an American accent for the film. This was puzzelling seeing as all the other soliders and followers of the First Order were British.... a deliberate approach that the filmmakers made perhaps.

There are familiar aspects taken from the originals, its deliberate and creates a sense of excitement as well as comfort. There are those out there who will just say that it's just history repeating itself, but that's being too basic. Leia, Han, Chewie, C3PO and R2D2 make appearences, some more stapled but we are also introduced to the 'new' important characters, Fin, Rey, BB8 and to some extent Poe. Poe is the first and we're told straight away, he's the best fighter pilot in the resistance. His buddy is BB8, a one of kind droid who he entrusts with a supposed map to Luke Skywalker. Poe is then captured and tortured by Kylo Ren, who has his own issues going on, mostly that he is looking to be the next villain. Poe is helped to escape when Strorm Trooper Fin wants out of the First Order. They escape successfully but crash on Jakku and are separated. We follow Finn has he treks across the desert until he meets Rey who has also taken in BB8. Now all the important players have met/been introduced.

I'm trying to stop myself from relating the whole story, so I'll stop there. What's interesting is that the fans who believe the new triology is just going the way of the first, are eager to pin point who is the new who. For me, it doesn't seem to work like that. Poe, played by the amazing Oscar Issacs, is the fighter pilot and has the droid, just like Luke. But Rey is the one who has the Force. Finn also gets a few chances to fight with Luke's lightsaber. So it seems, our would be trio have a little bit of the 'Luke' spirit in them. Rey also has shows signs of being a new 'Han' as she can fly, she's a pretty good mechanic and most importantly, she's gets on really well with Chewie. Finn could also have the potential to be 'Han' is he ups his game in the next film, he's a great character as he represents what it was like to be in the First Order and want to rebel against it. But he also felt a little bit like place holder in some scenes. The potential romance that was hinted at between Fin and Rey seemed forced and unnecessary, these characters shined without that.

In the next films, I'm hoping Poe is developed more as there just wasn't enough of him in the film. He served his purpose but wasn't established enough. I would say the same for Finn and Rey too, but they had more opportunities to show what they could do. The Force Awakens is an most excellent into, teasing us with what is and can come later. Two major things are definitely Rey being a jedi knight and Kylo Ren completing his Sith training.

Rey being the one with the Force was huge step of brilliance, I of course am now talking as the feminist inside me. It felt really good to see a woman take up the mantle. She had the struggle, she's a survivor and she's the jedi, not Finn, which is what was teased in early footage and posters. It's inspiring and hopefully will encourage more girls to enjoy the film as now they can see a sci-fi film where they can relate to the 'hero', sort of.

About Kylo Ren, now, I've read and heard people either praise Adam Driver for his role or complain he wasn't 'evil' enough. Let me point out that Kylo Ren or should I say Ben Solo, is not a Sith yet. If he was, he could have crushed Finn and Rey in the later fight scene. He's still struggling with light and dark, he's still seeking advise and guidance. The cryptic speech he gives to Darth Vader's head could also been seen as puzzling, what exactly does he mean by 'finish what you started'? Everyone automatically thinks, it's bad, but I'm hoping something else is up the filmmakers sleeves. I suppose the fact Ren kills his dad, Han Solo was going to happen and then was actually needed. Harrison Ford wanted out and Kylo Ren needed to get rid of him to complete his transition to the dark side. I was mortified when it happened and I saw it coming as soon as the bridge over the chasm came into shot.

Despite the killing his father and for a short time, Rey's mentor, Kylo Ren showed other emotions that seemed even more alien. Again, it's unclear about Rey's origin. Some say she's Luke's daughter, others say she's actually Kylo Ren's twin, which would be thoroughly disappointing as that would be dull. I'm hoping for something right out of nowhere to make it more interesting and it would help support my theory. Kylo Ren seemed somewhat infatuated by Rey. The first time he takes off his mask is to her, he is weakened in her presence as Rey has never used the Force before but managed to get through on her first try? Sorry, this means less credit to Rey but it's logic. Kylo Ren also offers to teach her how to use the Force, granted it's while they are fighting but still, there is something there. Whether it be a family bond or Kylo Ren's unsure emotions and connection towards to light side, the tension between Rey and Kylo Ren in the torture scene is brilliant. It's actually my favourite scene.

(Side note. I've just discovered #Reylo on Twitter. So, I'm not crazy after all)

Rather than a straightforward review, these are more my rambling thoughts about the film. I still talk about today, even after two months have passed. It had such an impact and everyone has their own theories, Star Wars is an excellent topic, with the right people. I'll end this with no conclusion as it's pretty obvious I loved the film, but I'll just say, may the Force be with and I can't wait for Rouge One this year.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Fandom Friday: OTPs

I'm actually new to this term, OTP. Since being involved in blogging communities, I've seen it more and more on Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter and of course on blogs. From what I understood, OTPs are pairings in films, TV, comics that fans get obsessed about and root for. I am included in this, as I have found out. The more scientific answer is 'OTP: it is the sole or primary pairing someone is interested in for a given fandom.' Naturally I wanted to pick the 8 sensates from Sense8, but its all about partnerships.

Slight problem with this post is that is has some similarities to a previous Fandom Friday post from last year. Favourite Fictional couples anyone? I've added one that won't be popular, but if I see chemistry, great team work and those who 'just fit', it's an OTP for me.

My number one OTP and maybe the only one that I obsess about. They had a joint name from the start, they are psychically linked, they've saved each other, they are each other's favourite thing. They are the ultimate true paring.

Starbuck & Apollo
This ship, as they say, was never really allowed to set sail. Everything got in the way and I don't just mean the cylons. Best friends who were much more but never really got to explore anything further. They married other people, both ill fated marriages. She died then reappeared and he was the only person who believed in her. They were not given the ending they deserved. 

Nathan & Audrey

A few episodes into season 1 I called it. But what was brilliant is that they became partners, best friends first. They had the room to have other relationships, short lived, but ultimately they ended up obsessed with each other, which was amusing at times and heartbreaking the next. I still haven't watched the last ever episode as the show was great but lost its way towards the end, I don't want the 'troubles' to ruin them.

Snow & Bigby 
For the Fables comic readers out there, you know what I mean. This was an epic romance spanning centuries. Bigby had been in love with Snow since the moment he met her. Snow, who still believed in princes and daring knights, took a while to see that Bigby was all that plus the perfect partner when they both lived in Fabletown. Warriors and lovers. Two very powerful Fable folk, they had their happy ever after and the amazing Wolf Manor to boot.

Peggy & Jarvis
I think I'm the only one who sees this. But there were a few things I picked up on in the first season and a few things in the second. Yes, I know he's married and she's only just got over Cap, but if not a romantic ship, this is definitely a true partnership of brilliance.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Valentine's Edition: Star-Crossed Lovers

Don't forget to check out what Wandering Through the Shelves picked, the blog that started Thursday Movie Picks. 

Save the Last Dance
Separated by social differences but brought together by dance. Everyone loved this film when I was in school, everyone seemed to own the video. I even think I had a copy on VHS at one point. It's not the greatest film but it a great example of star-crossed lovers in a more up to date setting. This is also around the time Julia Stiles was up and coming actress. When her mother dies suddenley, Sara, a ballet dancer, moves to Chicago with her father. There she meets Derek who helps her train for another important dance audition while incorporating hiphop moves to improve her skills.

The Notebook
 Separated by social status, Noah, a poor boy from a working class family and Abbey, the daughter of a wealthy family fall in love. Again, this was a HUGE film when I was at school, it was also the perfect film for both Ryan Reynolds and Rachel McAdams to breakout with. According to wiki, the film now has a cult following, I'm not surprised. It really is the story of Noah and Abbey falling in love in 1940s while their old selves read from about it in the present day.

Shakespeare in Love

Sometimes a film comes along and it just feels like the epitomy of British film. Shakespear in Love is one of those films. The beyond amazing British cast with a couples of American actors in order to sell to the US market. Oh I do love this film. Shakespeare, a rather poor playwright, falls in love with Viola de Lesseps, the daughter of a wealthy merchant after she disguises herself as an actor to audition for his new play, then after discovering her identity they have a love affair. The affair also opens up Shakspeare as he writes/performs 'Romeo and Juliet'.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Fandom Fridays: Late TV Series Discoveries

 After seeing seasons 1-4 on Netflix, I watched them all, I was addicted to it. I then watched season 5 on and off as it wasn't so easily available and I didn't really enjoy it. Season 4 had a great end. I first watched, I think 2 episodes back in Uni after my friend introduced it to me. I loved it but she only had it on blu-ray and those weren't as popular as they are now, so I couldn't watch the show. But 4 years later I did, better late than never right? I actually recently rewatched the show (not S5, still not great) its just as brilliant as it was when I first watched Olivia, Peter, Walter and Astrid solve their first case.                                                                                                                            

I've read about the show and it referenced so much, as rule breaking, before its time and of course 'the Moonlighting curse' concerning lead characters. Having done my research before delving deeper into the Blue Moon Detective Agency, I looked into this so-called curse. Turns out, everyone raved about seasons 1-3 but by 4 things had changed due to Cybil Sheperd being pregnant and Bruce Willis becoming a big star and making Die Hard. The whole point of the show was the two leads, David and Maddie, but in season 4, apparently they are barely in the same scenes, plus a few weird story choices that don't make sense. Season 5 is a little better but lost the spark. I actually stopped at season 3 because the show was just beyond amazing and hilarious. I might pick up again but part of me doesn't want to ruin the memories.

Another show that I saw on Netflix and thought, what not. Plus my sister and brother in law were watching it and said it was good. In turn I advised they watch Moonlighting - which was a hit. I'm a sucker for detective stories so this looked appealing. Its dark, gritty and in some cases quite terrifying, especially in one episode when a murder takes place in my home town, its brief but it hit me. Idris Elba is of course absolutely brilliant and I can see why the show has been such a success. The long awaited 4th series turned out to be a two part special, but I'm biding my time with this one.

As someone who likes to think they're into sci-fi, comics, fantasy and all that or at least who like to embrace it all, its pretty bad at how late into the game I was with Joss Weadon's Firefly. I saw Serenity first at Uni when my friend (same Fringe watcher) screened it at the film club. I loved it, but I did feel like I was missing some back story. I bought the series on sale a few years later I think and loved it. I finally understood certain quotes, gifs, references around the internetsphere and why it was so sad that a certain character died in Serenity. It is immensly annoying at how amazing another series could be instead of the one film and some comics. Alas, we really will never know 'what if'.

I was three seasons late into watching the anthology series. I thought it was odd that the creator of Glee also made this. A friend at Uni (not the Fringe watcher) kept going on about the first series, but being someone who isn't into horror I wasn't interested. But, again, Netflix offered the first two series on a plate. I devoured the first season, Murder House, scared, shocked and delighted at the same time. I know that the second season, Asylum is everyone's favourite but the last three episodes are so disappointing it didn't win me over. I loved Coven, mostly because it wasn't a terrifying as the last two. I then had to wait for Freak Show and later Hotel, just like everyone else. I still love the idea and the separate stories that all intertwine and can't wait for next year as well as the cousin American Crime Story.