Fifty Shades of Steele

Well, we did it. We gave in. We went to see Fifty Shades of Grey. I suspect not so much because of the hype in the media surrounding this movie but more so for our own curiosity’s sake (at least I can only speak for myself). After all, movies like this with such strong sexual language and “touchy” subjects are not featured every day (filmed yes, we actually call that pornography but mass featured at your local theatre, no).

I walked in not expecting much and that is the exact attitude I believe everyone on the fence about watching the movie should have- an open mind. Although I did not finish the book trilogy (due to my natural impatience for all things unreadable- the book was garbage really), I did see, just from completing only the first book, how it would appeal to the general public especially those that were being introduced to this sexually racy, shocking, blatant and erotic subject for the first time, in print. Although erotic romance novels are nothing new to the vast genres of the literary world, this is the first time that this genre has gained such notoriety and been discussed at this high a level. Talk shows, serious news media outlets, comedic figures started featuring related stories, parodies and discussing these matters of sexuality, consent, risqué behaviour that used to be taboo but for some reason now openly debated. Again, a subject that has always existed and written about with a large yet rather quiet cult following but only now being dramatically produced on screen and talked about– ad nauseam. This begs the only question- why now? Is it because our culture has only now started to accept that these fantasies and desires are collectively shared resulting in the public’s infinite thirst for sexual knowledge and understanding based on progress within our sexual evolution? Or is our culture finally accepting of differences outside of what’s considered the “norm” and allowing a platform for such discussions to take place (along with other sexually revolutionizing ways of identifying ourselves through the language of LGBTQIA2).

A comedian in the 90s once said about the Spice Girls: everyone loves them but no one ever admits to buying the CD. Yet, somehow they sold over six million albums worldwide, we all know the lyrics to every song along with their real and musical personas, and either did or wished they had attended their reunion concert! I gather this is the exact boat all erotica followers are sitting in and until recently it was always a secret culture but now, somehow society has given permission for all to judge for ourselves and no matter how we privately feel about it (yay or nay), there is now more acceptance and a sense of tolerance.

Back to the film- surprisingly not terrible. I say not terrible because it was not terrific; there were times of undeniable wincing at the corniness of the script, however, what saved it during these moments of cheesiness were the injections of smart wit and comical flavour that actually warranted a few genuine chuckles from the audience. Other than the film not taking its own work of “art” too seriously, there were two other major factors that made this film extremely watchable: the acting and the soundtrack.

Make no mistake, when I say “acting” I really only mean Dakota Johnson’s performance (aka Anastasia Steele) although, Jamie Dornan (aka Christian Grey) does have some credit here, his non-celebritydom that is. What really worked for this film was that these two actors were relatively unknowns and that made this film more relatable to its viewers. I believe this film could not have cast a better female lead than Dakota Johnson and what made it all the more entertaining to watch was her skill of playing every single facet of this character- from the charming and unassuming virgin, to a radically sexualized being to an anger-fueled woman demanding more than “sexual slave” as her relationship status to Christian Grey. Dakota Johnson, I thought, did an amazing job at showcasing her character’s sense of naivety, mousiness and genuine innocence without it being over-acted and perceived as phony.

The soundtrack/score was an amazing accompaniment to the movie; there’s nothing much more to say about that than the fact that it suited the movie without flaw. Its steady, calm and melodic notes at the perfect times were pierced by the film’s dark and sultry tones which I thought provided a more modern twist to an elemental-themed movie.

One other thing that perked my ears in the theatre was the surprising presence of the Eastern European community (mostly Russians if my language-recognizing skills served me right). What does this have to do with the film my crazy boyfriend impassively asked?! Well think about it, when we consider some of the most notable and controversial literatures of our time with similar subjects, which authors/novels do we think about? Perhaps Anna Karenina written by Leo Tolstoy in 1955 which explores the themes of hypocrisy, jealousy, sexual fury, societal norms and erotic desire? And of course, who can forget one of the most provocative novels of our time, Lolita written by Vladimir Nabokov in 1877 which blatantly and unapologetically illustrates the societal taboo of incestuous passion, admiration and obsession. And a small disclaimer here, perhaps I am generalizing a bit so this is not to say all Russian literary greats are known for extending these radical subjects to mass audiences, it was simply an observation that was made while waiting for the film to begin!

And a last piece of advice for anyone who hasn’t seen the film or read these novels- judge for yourself. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to explore other novels in this genre. Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t the best but unfortunately for those naysayers, it won’t be the last either.

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The Curious Case of a Seven Pound Millionaire

This season garnered, in my opinion, some of the greatest films of this decade starring some of the most memorable and brilliant actors of our time.

Seven Pounds stars the ever multi-faceted actor (mostly known for his legendary role as the freshest Prince of a place called Belair), Will Smith. It’s a story that unfolds into a series of subplots that slowly reveals itself as Will Smith peels away the layers of his character and the reason for his entire routine existence. His role in Seven Pounds evokes nothing less than dark, emotional grittiness that sustains its power through to the heart-wrenching end.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, based on the famed novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is an epic film that must be viewed in theatres than simply watched at home. This movie is not only thought-provoking and profoundly written and directed but its leading actors Brad Pitt (whose outstanding performance reminds us all of how good an actor he really is outside of the media’s obsession over his shacking up with the home-wrecking, once-bloody-vial-wearing-now-turned-holy-von-adopt-a-million-children Jolie) and Cate Blanchett deliver some of their best work yet. The sometimes superficial ‘hollywoodized’ business of film is one that consists of multi-levels of talented and talentless performers: few great, some good and a lot bad but the actors who star in this undoubtedly classic film puts the art back into acting. Predictable as the ending was of course, you couldn’t help but find yourself praying for a miracle of sorts. One of the most heart-breaking movies I’ll probably ever watch- a true classic of this generation.

However, great as the others may be, my enthusiasm for the films introduced this year does not even remotely compare to my love of this years dubbed “surprise hit”, Slum Dog Millionaire. The greatest films of all have a common, effortless power that introduces you to foreign ideas, provokes your inner subconscious, overwhelms you with raw and very real emotions and entices you into its creative, imaginary world. Slum Dog Millionaire certainly takes you on this colourful journey and in doing so, have captured audiences’ hearts everywhere. Born in the slums of Mumbai, the primary character, Jamal Malik played by Dev Patel, is an honest and determined fighter. He fights for many things: his rights as a citizen, his right to love whomever he chooses, his right to protect himself, his beliefs, and most importantly, his word. This thrilling and super extraordinary film will keep you hoping for more and you will find yourself rooting for the fictional characters long after the films credits have rolled. Best film of the year winner at this year’s Golden Globe, Slum Dog Millionaire certainly does not disappoint!

These rare films of uniquely-told stories have given people a reason to return to the cinema again- even if it means having to give up your first born for a popcorn combo and that’s not even including the ticket itself- but that’s another rant saved for a rainy day.

Go, watch, enjoy and be BROKE! 🙂