The Before Trilogy and random thoughts

I’ll be honest, I’m a bimbo movie go-er. That means, my preference is always going to movies or watching movies to be mind numbed. Case in point – Godzilla, The Equalizer, John Wick, Edge of Tomorrow… the movie needs to be a) Lots of killing b) Super big special effects c) Not much thinking involved.

However, every once in a while, some inspired thing called ‘time’ shows up at my door and I find that I have some good movies, like really good movies to crunch through. I was on my way to Japan (I can’t sleep on flights) and managed to watch two good ones – the first was the One Hundred Foot Journey – excellent. But the second – Boyhood – was just amazing. Google ‘Boyhood’ and you will understand what so special about this movie.

Anyway, I became very curious of the director Richard Linklater and found that he directed other movies – and some of them I’ve heard before but never got to watch–the Before trilogy. It’s three movies – Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight that followed the lives of two people, separated by 9 years each movie. The thing about it, like Boyhood, it’s actually real-time. Meaning, it’s REALLY 9 years between the movies and not just the word “9 years later” and then makeup to make the actors look older or younger. It’s ridiculous.

It helps to have Ethan Hawke who is a very underated actor to be honest. I think he’s up there with Christian Bale but just never got the breaks. And Julie Delphy, who is of course, this amazing French actress who can really act (watch the scene in Before Midnight in the hotel room and you will understand).

Anyway, I won’t go into the movies, but if you have the time, watch the Before Sunrise, Sunset and Midnight in sequence. You won’t regret it.

It doesn’t have much drama or plot…just a LOT of talking. I mean, I never knew conversation could be so enjoyable to watch, but it is. There is like a sequence of 20 minutes of long takes of both of them (Celine and Jesse in the movie), just talking. Why is it interesting? Well, for anyone who had ever gone on any relationship – this really reflects a little of what we go through.

Awkward talking in the beginning – natural flow of conversation after a while. I recall in my college years, when you know, we were starting to move from oogling girls, to getting to know them – there were exactly those times when I was just walking and talking with a girl, exchanging ideas, philosophies, opinions. In Australia, there were plenty. Most of them were just very close friends who remain close till today, but one or two were actually people I would develop a deeper relationship with…and of course, one of them happened to be my wife today. We would go on long walks and talks, similar to the movie, and I guess that’s why it’s so relatable and watchable. It was like having our own lives being played out on screen. The mundane, yet interesting subjects we would so randomly touch on. The jokes that didn’t work. The transitionary vision of people and things.

The last is actually very vivid in the scene in Before Sunrise, where Jesse and Celine asks direction from two guys at the bridge in Vienna. They start talking and the guys invite them for a play that night, and we all think, well, that’s part of the plot. They would go to the play and have fun with the locals and develop some drama. But only….no. As the movie meander on, no other appearance from the guys at the bridge and they did not go to the play, instead hanging out alone playing pinball at a random bar. Only in the morning did Jesse passingly joked: “You know what – we didn’t go to that play.”

It’s just genius. Because that’s how we are at life. Everything and everyone is somewhat transitionary, especially if two people are in love…they forget others, not out of selfishness, but out of nature. Victor Hugo, the dude who wrote Les Mis said: “Loving is almost a substitute for thinking. Love is a burning forgetfulness of all other things.”

Sometimes, my literary side comes up, amidst all the rants on golf and hacking courses. If you have time to waste and want to watch 3 movies before you get married, or just got married, or having some issues with the other half – watch these 3 movies. Love isn’t so much of a feeling, after a while; it’s more of a decision and a lot of work. But I think to many of us, it’s worth it.

Best scenes of the movies:

a) Before Sunrise – the part where both of them pretended to be talking to their best friends over the phone (they were actually pretend-calling each other across the table) about their feelings for the other person. Genius. I should have used that as my go-to ‘kau-lui’ move in college!

b) Before Sunset – the apartment scene, I guess, when Julie Delphy (Celine) played the song about Ethan Hawke (Jesse) on the guitar about the previous meeting 9 years back. It was written by her actually and it’s actually a good waltz!

c) Before Midnight – by far, the final argument scene in the hotel room. It’s so real. It’s like me and my wife battering each other verbally before calling a truce, then battering again, then calling a truce and finally me trying to crack a joke to solve everything. Modus Operandi!

OK, have a great week and Happy hacking!

A look at Les Miserables

Aside from golf, there’s another great passion in my life: reading. I know it sounds unbelievable, but my entire love for writing did not stem from English classes and lessons in my high school, which were so poor in SO MANY WAYS. It came from devouring books while growing up. And not just any books, but books that these days you’d use for paper weights: Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Dickens, Thomas Hardy et al. I was a teenager and my best companion while reading these suckers was a little Oxford dictionary. They don’t have that phrase “What the dickens are you talking about” for nothing.

One of the books I happened to come across before I knew there was a musical or now, a movie, was a book called Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I enjoyed his Notre Dame de Paris, so I started reading all his books. Les Miserables was a 2000 page tome. It was massive. And it rocked. It was the best book I’ve ever read…and that’s not even in the original language. It was written in French. I read three different translations and contemplated taking up French in university to read the original manuscript.

I have read the book about six times, not counting the random chapter readings I’ll read for fun when I am bored. I’ve watched the musical live 5 times: 3 times in Australia and twice in West End…over two days in London. One with my wife, and the very next day when she was shopping, I watched it Again!

So, when the movie came out, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that even if I’ve been away from the cinema for 7 months already, I’ll worm my way in there just to watch this. Very briefly (since most of my gilagolfers readers have already tuned out, maybe):

Les Miserables the Movie (Spoiler):

What Worked

Jean Valjean – great acting and ok singing, except for the massacre of “Bring Him Home”. The song (which shouldn’t be sung at all in the first place because that wasn’t how Valjean felt in the book), is sung with full falsetto, not a screaming voice, Mr Wolverine!

Fantine – Super “I dreamed a Dream”. Must watch just for this.

New Song – “Suddenly” is absolutely fantastic and faithful to the book. This is so necessary because this just brought a different understanding to Valjean that the musical failed to do.

Faithful to Book – Lots of scenes depicted are from the book. Like the giant elephant statue where Gavroche emerges from and Valjean’s escape. Excellent tributes to the book so nerds like me can appreciate it.

Gavroche – Excellent depiction, but still no word about him being Ponine’s brother.

Cosette – Great singing, but character still too shallow…it’s not her fault, because even in the book, she wasn’t a great character. Although she’s the “Face” of Les Mis.

Borat as Thenardier – This was great casting. Excellent villain.

What Did not Work

Eponine – Samantha Barks is way, way too hot to be a poor “wretched child” as described in the books. And looks too well-fed. But Way. Too. Hot. Marius must be either blind to prefer Cosette to this Eponine (especially when she’s drenched in rain), or he’s secretly gay.

Javert – Should stick to acting, not singing, Mr Crowe. He was terrible in singing.

Marius – Still so unlikeable, from the book, musical and movie. You wish he’d just die quicker.

Pacing – If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s a bit tough to follow. I saw like some people leaving and some asking, “WTF is this la?” halfway through.

OK, that’s it for my completely non-related to golf post for the year.

Happy New Year Gilagolfers!

OK, one more shot of Eponine. Way. Way. Hot. Especially. In. Rain. Yowzah.