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Saturday, 19 December 2015

15 Things I Love and Loathe About Christmas

'The holidays are coming, the holidays are coming....' as featured in the Coca Cola ads during Christmas time. 

Things that I like about Christmas

  • The Christmas lights and decorations 

  • Christmas dinner - it varies depending on where you live in the world, the family that you come from, as well as that many different ethnic communities embrace Christmas their own way and style

  • The cold weather gives us an excuse to stay at home, relax, watch TV, movies, play video games, go on the internet... or to just chill out 

  • My sister's birthday falls on December 25th and so we have a birthday cake, in addition to the presents that she gets

  • The gift giving, exchanging presents and seeing the happy smiles on their faces - it's not so much about the receiving but the giving and seeing the positive reactions  

  • Receiving gifts - OK, so I lied

  • The Christmas break and embracing the holiday values - not having to work, or thinking about work. It's all about having time for yourself and with your loved ones. And not all of the holiday values are related to religion, anyhow; they are just common knowledge and general etiquette people adhere to that are detached from being Holy and religious. Such as kindness, respect for others, having respect for yourself, being a good person. 

  • Christmas bestows on people like myself peace and contentment - which is something we all need after a year of hard work, for a lot of people who had to endure struggles, difficulties, hardships, tough times, this is a good time and place to wind down, relax and be at inner peace with oneself.  

Things that I don't like about Christmas

  • Buying gifts and presents when I haven't the faintest idea what to get for my relatives - I get them a gift card, or money if they specifically ask for it. I know it is a cop-out, but honestly, on the one day of the year, if you and when you don't know what to get for your loved ones, just give them a gift card. I do that and they don't complain or moan about it. I'd rather get them something than give them nothing.

  • The materialistic aspect of it - even though I do get gifts, I still sort of dislike the whole materialistic side of Christmas. Unfortunately, we live in an age where if we want a particular item or gift to give to someone, we have to fork out money for it. 

  • Shopping in person - sorry, but I can't be done with all the excessive whinging, moaning, getting crushed in the crowds, having to listen to crappy Xmas songs. I just do the shopping online in the comfort of my home.  

  • The stress and pressures it puts on people, having to meet deadlines such as before Xmas day; particularly when older relatives turn up and they start whining about the state of the house and getting you to clean and tidy the place up. It's so annoying.  

Image credit: Stressbusting 

  • People b****ing and complaining over little things, especially when they don't get the gift they want for Christmas (in this case alone, save up for and buy it for yourself when the holidays are over) when it is supposed to be a time for relaxation, celebration and enjoying the holidays with friends and family and taking a rest from work.

  • People saying that only Christians can celebrate Christmas and no one else - I am an atheist and to be quite frank, in my opinion, everyone and anyone should celebrate Christmas, however, and whenever they feel like it, - regardless of their religious affiliation. Or lack of one. It doesn't have to be this way, that way. There is no fixed idea - just go ahead and do it and have fun. Yes, I know it is traditionally a religious holiday for many countries with predominately Christian communities. But during the past 10 or 15 years, it has evolved into a secular holiday where people use this period to meet up with loved ones, families and friends, to reflect on the past year and other things -without thinking too much about the religious side of it. And there is nothing wrong with that, whatsoever.

  • That we prepare ourselves in advance... for a holiday that lasts for just 2 days of the whole Gregorian calendar year. But then again, the preparation for Christmas begins at the beginning of December. For me, that is when I really get into the festive spirit and feeling giddy and excited about Christmas. The earlier I think about it and the longer the days pass by in the run up to December 24, the more excited and interested I become and when Xmas Eve, day and Boxing Day arrives, I feel even more happy and elated about Christmas. But I do agree with people who say we prepare ourselves weeks in advance for Christmas, for a holiday which only lasts for 2 days (3 if you count Boxing Day and you live in Australia or the UK) - and when it is over, which happens very quickly, it's back to daily/normal working life, after that. 

But other than that...

Season's greetings to you all! 

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Time To Rock It From The Delta To The DMZ! : A Look Back on 'Good Morning, Vietnam'


Sources: Cineplex and Fanpop

After a string of box-office disappointments in The Best of Times, Club Paradise, Moscow on the Hudson, The Survivors, The World According to Garp and Seize The Day to his name, 1987's Good Morning, Vietnam became a huge turning point for Robin Williams in his transition from a TV star and stand up comedian into a movie actor. Whereas the success of Mork and Mindy helped elevate his status and popularity as a TV star and a celebrity during the late 1970s to early 1980s, Good Morning, Vietnam was the breakout vehicle that justified and consolidated his worth as a movie actor, particularly as a dramatic actor from the mid-1980s, all the way up to the early 2000s.  

In 1979, Vietnam war veteran Adrian Cronauer finished a screenplay for a proposed sitcom that was based on his experiences as a disc jockey on the armed forces radio service in Saigon in 1965-66. In the early 1980s, Robin Williams read the script and saw it as the perfect format for his own style of comedy and improvisational humour.

It grossed millions of dollars in the box office and elevated Williams's Hollywood status to an all-time high for the first time.

It was not an accurate representation of Cronauer, as in real life he was a droll. While Williams's portrayal is manic, humourous and zany, the real Cronauer was never antiwar. In the movie, he learns and suddenly realises his reliance on humour also serves as a detachment from his environment, as well as from his military comrades. Additionally, it showcases Robin Williams improvisary brilliance (Niemi, 161). 

Erickson argues that Good Morning, Vietnam only succeeds as a comedy due in part to Robin Williams's on screen performance. Without Williams, the movie lags (Erickson, 334). Which I agree with; after all, this is more of a Robin Williams movie than that of a movie with so many A-list actors and actresses. 

It is a comedy about one man's attempt to make peace with his country's enemy & about the importance of comedy in speaking the truth against the forces that would oppress it (Simon, 172).

Time magazine called the movie the best military comedy since M.A.S.H disbanded. Richard Schickel explained the film is not afraid to work the extremes and that Williams makes the whole thing work because of his confidence with the role. He creates monologues on the nature of war and turning the reality and seriousness of it into comic relief (Suid, 537).

Williams's performance in Good Morning, Vietnam became a hallmark for other characters that present a whimsical and fun side, which masks a damaged exterior. From Peter Banning/Peter Pan in Hook, Dale from Fathers' Day, Daniel and Mrs Doubtfire in Mrs Doubtfire, Parry from The Fisher King, this is not as a reflection of his personal issues or problems that affected Robin Williams's life; but more so in terms of that he will be best remembered by many fans like myself as a character-based actor and performer. All these complex, multi-dimensional & multi-layered characters help bring out the emotional, as well as happy and fun sides & performances to each and every one of them. 

As Adrian, his improvisational timing and skill is so impeccable, natural and smooth, and although the negatives are very few, the romance angle between Adrian and the Vietnamese girl, doesn't quite work and thankfully it becomes subdued later on as the movie advances. He embraces his position by entertaining and informing the troops with a 'Good Morning, Vietnam,' introduction during every segment. He bounces from one character to another: from being happy, ecstatic and energetic and boisterous to sad and angry. The politics of war and radio also makes for an interesting juxtaposition. 

Whereas many people have dismissed this movie as nothing more than a typical comedic vehicle for Robin Williams to do his schtick, they seem to forget that Good Morning, Vietnam is not so much a semi-autobiographical story of Adrian Cronier's life, but more to the point, it is about how a subject such as war is usually regarded as negative, not very interesting and entertaining. It is not about making fun of a relatively difficult subject matter but how to see the humorous side to it and that war can be discussed in an open and humorous manner, without coming across as being too offensive or taken too seriously. 

At the same time, there are concepts around friendship, understanding and even over cultural differences that are glossed over and become intertwined with the comedic elements; some of which these leads to scenes where cultural differences and that no matter where you are from in the world, no matter how many times you want to reason with people and want them to come round and be on your side, that cannot always happen the way you want it. Due to external differences, be it political, social, cultural or otherwise.

The troops, the American soldiers are all out in Vietnam wanting to fight the forces of evil, under the supervision of their superiors, but for Adrian, he doesn't want to fight with people, or go into battle against them. He is out there to entertain, as well as to inform troops all whilst in the studio and out in Vietnam as he interacts and bonds with the locals and also, teaching English to a group of students. As a foreigner in an overseas country, Adrian wants to help and reach out to others and share Western tidbits of knowledge and culture with them. 

Not only do we have a situation where he is trying to assimilate into the Eastern culture and understand its customs and how the people live, work but a clash of personalities arise too when he comes face-to-face with the army generals, who don't appear to take too kindly to his style of irreverent humour and irony. 

Good Morning, Vietnam may well be Robin Williams's best all-round, dual comedic and dramatic performance. It basically takes the best of his comedy and dramatic talents and harnesses it, that it's a great film and it succeeds in part, because of Robin's turn as Adrian. The poignancy and humility of Good Morning, Vietnam as a movie transcends on so many levels and in numerous scenes throughout it, such as the ending scene where Adrian says goodbye to the girl and when he breaks down when he tries to deliver news live on air about a cafe bombing, of which the officials try to prevent him from broadcasting to listeners.    

Released during a period, or be it a decade where Williams was still trying to find his feet in the movie industry and moving on from his almost innocent child-like Mork persona from Mork & Mindy, his performance in this film has so much depth to it. & if there ever was a movie that would turn out to be the turning point for his movie career onwards, then thankfully I'm glad that movie was Good Morning, Vietnam. You could say Robin was playing himself, what with his ad-libs and improvised voice-overs. 

Having heard of the movie, but never seen it when it was released in 1987, watching Good Morning, Vietnam today, I realized that the critics and many other Robin Williams fans who enjoyed it, were right. It delivers everything it promises to be, lives up to the hype and it also makes me smile, laugh and emotional too. I thought it was and it is very enjoyable. 

A terrificly amusing and at times moving movie with a terrific performance by Robin, it's a shame he didn't secure an Oscar for it, because he deserved it. 

Good Morning, Vietnam is undoubtedly, and rightly so one of his best ever movies. 


Guts and Glory: the making of the American Military image in film, Lawrence H Suid

History in the media: film  and Television, Robert Niemi

Military comedy films: A critical survey and filmography of Hollywood, Hal Erickson

Trash culture: popular culture and the great tradition , Richard Keller Simon

How Good Morning Vietnam Made Robin Williams A Star - Slate Magazine via Youtube 

Saturday, 5 December 2015

10 So-Called Unconventional Rom-Com Movies I Find Easily Tolerable

that aren't called Pretty Woman, 4 Weddings & a Funeral, Notting Hill, When Harry Met Sally 

*last updated: 11 January 2018*

As much as I enjoy watching my classic movies, - and I say classic as in the 1980s, 1990s and less so 2000s, the one particular genre I am not a big fan of, or a regular viewer of, is the romantic comedy or AKA the rom-com.

It's just that I find that most of the well-known movies tend to be cliched, over-hyped, so boring, nothing much to write home about and often make me want to gag. That, or I am just not into them as much as other fans of that movie are - i.e. Pretty Woman, Notting Hill, When Harry Met Sally. The romantic comedy is a subgenre where for me the lack of onscreen star couplings where I can truly buy into their romance, is what holds me back from being a fan of these types of movies. There are not many so to speak that interest & resonate with me in that respect. 

But that is not to say I am completely against rom-coms, or detest them completely; I have absolutely no qualms about movies that depict the story of two strangers/employees/friends turned potential lovers. It is the way the movie and narrative are depicted, how the events unfold, as well as how I feel about the movie that matters the most. If I enjoy the movie, if I feel for the couple, the star pairing of the actor/actress and sense the onscreen chemistry between the two characters, then for sure I will enjoy it. And I shall also root for them to get together in the end.  I even came up with my own romantic comedy movie concept

It's not so much about that the narratives and movies always have to have a happy ending in contrast to our own lives (though it is still important), nor that they remind me of something that I'll probably never have. Not for me, that is. I shall never compare movies, well rom-coms to real-life because it is like comparing oranges with apples, it's all chalk- and- cheese. But for rom-coms to entertain and to put a smile on my face, a romantic comedy movie has to be a) funny &/or amusing, as well as interesting, b) have likeable characters and c) a main boy/girl star pairing who are likeable enough for us to make us want them to fall in love, and more, without coming across as being cheesy, mawkish and gag-inducing. 

Rom-coms that also try to put a different slant on the formula or mix things up by incorporating elements from other genres, as well as ones that have something to say, besides having the lovey-dovey thing, get a bonus point too. 

I know some of these aren't strictly categorised as rom-coms per se, but they still have elements and conventions that are taken from other romantic comedy films.  

These are my 10 chosen comedy movies: each one with an unconventional take/twist on the topic of and concept of love and romance that I find equally and easily endurable, more-so than other so-called rom-coms. 

*additional info from Amazon

Tootsie (1982) - technically speaking, Tootsie doesn't fall into the rom-com sub-genre of movies; however, one could see it as boy as a girl-meets-girl story. Because that is what it is: a man (an actor by the name of Michael) lands a job by playing and disguising himself as a woman, only to fall for his co-star, Julie. There is no social message or hidden agenda, it just wants to be funny and romantic, of which the movie succeeds on both levels. The ending scene where Dustin Hoffman's Michael and Jessica Lange's Julie come face- to- face for the first time since Michael's on-camera revelation as the man posing as Dorothy is pretty endearing and sweet and not so in-yer-face it becomes a turn-off. 

Bruce Almighty (2001) - Another not a standard Rom-com or film that is categorised as a romantic comedy, and yet it follows many of its tropes and its genre structure, though it is twisted slightly as boy and girl together, boy loses girl, and finally boy gets girl back and they fall in love again. Starring Jim Carrey (in his last ever big hit) and Jennifer Aniston, who with this movie, she finally made a name for herself as a movie actress after several disappointments since her transition from the TV show, Friends to a film star as the couple, Bruce and Grace, they looked great together onscreen and had great chemistry. Funny, sweet, wasn't too preachy as I'd anticipated, this was a really good film that could be construed as a rom-com. & a good take on one too. 

Jack & Sarah (1995) - Jack's life comes crashing down after the death of his wife through childbirth. He later hires a waitress, Amy as Sarah's babysitter, only to fall for her! Really good performance by Richard E. Grant in particular and the relationship between Amy and Jack develops nicely, one step at a time.

Romancing The Stone (1984) - yet another unconventional rom-com, Romancing the Stone is more of an action-adventure movie in a similar vein to Indiana Jones with an interesting blend of humour, intrigue and romance. It was the launchpad for Michael Douglas's and Kathleen Turner's movie careers, and it was also the movie that helped establish themselves as stars of the big screen. But it can also be viewed as a rom-com, in the sense that romance blossoms for both Jack and Joan, who fall for one another whilst they go in search of the treasure.

Overboard (1987) - starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, a rich woman falls off a boat, loses her memory and is told she is the mother to 4 unruly, out of control boys by their father, who falls in love with a rich woman. Fun, funny movie that plays out as a traditional comedy movie without coming off as sappy.

As Good As It Gets (1997) - 
one of the most peculiar rom-coms ever made, for some reason, the (odd) pairing of Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt somehow works, despite the age gap between the two actors. The movie is witty, poignant and feel-good. As Good As it Gets is an example that romantic comedy doesn't always have to be vulgar and relying on sexual scenes and references to garner audience interest but on good writing, solid acting and moments that make you smile.

Two Weeks Notice (2002) - this is a film that by judging by the poster itself, especially back in 2002 when this came out, I'd have dismissed this one completely. I'm not a Hugh Grant fan when it comes to his films, whilst Sandra Bullock is a fine actress, but there are fewer movies I've enjoyed of hers. But with these two together and the screenplay itself, it worked out and this was a pleasant surprise. It wasn't sickly romantic as I'd feared, in fact, it sort of plays out like screwball comedy and it was very enjoyable. 

It Could Happen To You (1994) - inspired by a true story, a humble cop, who along with his obnoxious (gold-digging) wife wins the lottery and he gives a huge tip to a down-to-luck waitress. Like Overboard, this is another movie about money doesn't buy happiness and true love. It Could Happen to You is a gentle love story interwoven into a tale of social consciousness. Nicolas Cage puts on one of his finest performances as Charlie and he just proves that Raising Arizona was no fluke, in terms of starring in light-hearted roles & movies, whilst Bridget Fonda's Yvonne provides that vulnerability, tenderness and warmth that compliments Cage's Charlie.

Living Out Loud (1998) - A movie that is similar to As Good As It Gets in terms of older people finding love, yet skews some of the genre conventions and still remains highly watchable from beginning to end. The Holly Hunter & Danny Devito pairing turned out to be a huge and nice surprise and in a way, I prefer this film over As Good As It Gets, as I liked Holly & Danny as a coupling moreso than Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt together. Directed by the same person who wrote The Fisher King, its approach is very surreal and so unlike any I've seen before in many other rom-coms, especially mainstream commercial hit rom-coms. 

Juwanna Mann (2001) - another drag-based comedy but set in the world of sports and more specifically basketball, Juwanna Mann received a mauling and thrashing by movie critics alike, particularly for its cross-dressing aspect, but this wasn't as bad and horrific as I'd feared and as the critics lauded it as. Whilst it could have been a lot stronger in the comedy aspect and the two leads Miguel Nunez Jr and Vivica A. Fox were better as onscreen friends than lovers to be, it was entertaining, which was something I wasn't expecting, not to mention the basketball scenes were a delight to watch. 

*other unconventional rom-com movies worth recommending by me: Coming to America, The Wedding Singer, She's All That, America's Sweethearts, Boomerang, Bubble Boy, Strictly Ballroom, Breakin' All The Rules, Gorgeous (1999 Jackie Chan flick that is a fusion of martial arts with romantic comedy)
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