Monday, 30 April 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Lowdown: A journalist’s investigation of an old mystery uncovers old secrets and hidden cravings.
Review:
A few years ago it felt as if half the people around me on the trains are reading one of the Stieg Larsson crime books series, the Millennium Series, the trilogy that starts with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I was made curios, but my reading priorities took me elsewhere. Until, that is, SBS recently aired the 2009 Swedish movie version (an Americanized version was released during 2011). Finally, the time has come for me to satisfy my curiosity and learn whether The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is yet another The Da Vinci Code: a book that succeeds in the popular market by appealing to the public’s insatiable demand for blood, sex and the occult.
The story starts with us learning that Michael (Michael Nyqvist), a seemingly hard working and honest journalist, has just lost his libel trial with this industrial tycoon and is therefore about to be sent to jail. The real life case of The Pirate Bay had already taught me that those sentenced to jail at Sweden are often “invited” to start their journey months after their trial. That turned out to be the case with our Michael, who now has some six months to burn before going to jail and whose newspaper doesn’t want him anymore because of the trouble he brings.
An old millionaire comes to his aid with a job offer, asking Michael to use his skills and vacant time to help solve a decades old mystery concerning the disappearance of his favorite niece from the island on which the family resides. Between ties with the Nazis, eccentricities and greed there are plenty of potential leads within the wealthy family. Michael, however, receives help from an unexpected source: a mysterious girl (with a dragon tattoo, of course) that hacked into his computer during his trial and is still around. That girl has some secrets of her own, which we will be learning about gradually as Michael learns some grotesque truths about the family he's investigating.
My description does The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo injustice; it is hard to convey what this film is about without blooping. Suffice to say this one is a film that makes the most of people's sadistic tendencies. A film that has no problems playing with extreme sex and Nazism at the same time. As can be expected, the result is thrilling; yet I could not avoid feeling toyed with. It did not feel like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was contributing much to my learning of the ways of this world; it just felt like the filmmakers were trying to shock me for the sake of shocking me.
Anecdote: The film's heroes are true Apple fans, using Macs wherever they go. However, as we can see, these Macs are being hacked left and right. I wonder whether Apple is happy with the publicity its computers received by the film, or whether it is unhappy with the perception its computers are so easily hacked.
Notable scene:
SBS’ viewers alert prior to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo warned us of “a sex scene”. There were some sex scenes in the film, and they were definitely plural. Most importantly, the sex scene everyone will remember is not a sex scene at all but rather a rape scene (if you insist I will tell you The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo actually contains two rape scenes). And that rape scene is pretty visceral.
This scene has to light a few bulbs when trying to explain the success Stieg Larsson’s books have had with the public. We, us, society is growing more fond of the extremes. I do have to raise the question of whether exposure to such extreme events, rendered so realistically, has a sanitizing effect on us? Would we grow indifferent to the stuff that’s portrayed in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo if more and more media went as far?
Overall: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is more than a bit like The Da Vinci Code, extreme yet rather empty. It’s not as superficial, though, and it is definitely a solid thriller. 3.5 out of 5 stars probably do some injustice to this Silence of the Lambs lookalike.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Agora

Lowdown: The story of Hypatia and the fall of the great library of ancient Alexandria.
Review:
In one of my more interesting coincidences of late, I had the pleasure of watching Agora the night before I attended the Global Atheist Convention. Why was watching this Spanish 2009 production featuring a perfectly English speaking soundtrack an interesting coincidence? Because I cannot think of a non documentary like film that does a better job at portraying a lot of that which is bad about religion. It is also hard to think of films that do a better job at conveying the differences between the scientific/humanistic world view and that of the religious. In other words, Agora is the best film to watch in order to turn its thinking viewer into an atheist.
The story of Agora may be familiar to those that watched their first episode of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. It tells the story of Hypatia (Rachel Weisz), an agnostic (I’m sure she didn’t regard herself in this term) philosopher and teacher living in the ancient Alexandria just as the Roman Empire decided to adopt Christianity. The film depicts the clash between the different faiths that dominated the time: those worshiping the classic Greek/Roman gods, the Jews and the rising Christians. While Hypatia sought to learn about the world and to teach, the various people of faith sought power and self interest; the clash between the two world views, the humble and the powerful, could produce only one result. Thus we witness how most of the ancient knowledge stored in the then great library of Alexandria is destroyed and how much knowledge we’ve lost as a result. That message is amplified through personal events around Hypatia, like the slave and the Roman prefect who are in love with her.
Agora’s story is compelling and very well told, but it also has some issues to face. First and most obviously there is the problem with many viewers knowing what the fate of the historical Hypatia was, thus ruining the tension factor and laying a fatalistic outlook to the whole two hours’ experience.
Second, and more importantly, there is the fact that for a film wishing to be perceived as authentic, Agora takes great liberties in filling up the gaps in our records of historical facts. We know very little about Hypatia, and what we do know tends to come from accounts written several centuries later. It could thus be argued that having Hypatia discover that planets are moving in elliptical orbits around the sun, the way Agora portrays her scientific obsession to be, is more than a bit of a stretch; it took Johannes Kepler using carefully collected observation data to figure this one out many centuries later.
I mention Kepler because, at its core, Agora is the tale of humanity discarding knowledge and falling into a millennium plus of Dark Ages by virtue of religion. Agora does not leave much room for doubt with the viewer on the damaging effects religion of all sorts (but Christianity in particular) has had in taking humanity backwards and exposing the worst of our species. In doing so, Agora does not only demonstrate some of the major issues facing humanity, but rather takes things further to help communicate this point to the masses through popular media. A great achievement by my book to put the likes of Cardinal George Pell in place with as he lies and claims Christianity liberated women.
Best scene: In today’s civilized world it is hard to imagine what ancient clashes of faith might have looked like. Agora steps in to fill the gap and help our imagination through its portrayal of the classic hate driven barbarian masses. These brutes tend to find it so easy to kill their neighbors for silly disputes over imaginary friends. If you had any doubts us humans are an ape species, closely related to other apes species, and descended from ape like ancestors, just watch one of the many stoning scenes Agora has to offer.
Overall: Good execution of important themes give Agora 4 out of 5 stars and render it the exact opposite of a forgettable film. Another great film I can't imagine seeing coming out of Hollywood.

Friday, 20 April 2012

No Safe Harbor

Lowdown: The manifest of the Pirate Party.
Review:
As books go, No Safe Harbor is rather unique: licensed with a Creative Commons license, it is a free download from the site bearing its name (here); if you insist you can also buy it. Curated by the United States Pirate Party, No Safe Harbor is a collection of articles from various sources, ranging from the American Constitution to material written by contemporary piracy movement leaders such as Cory Doctorow, Lawrence Lessig and Rick Falkvinge. These articles form three core subject groups, touching the three core agendas of the pirate movement:
  1. Government accountability and transparency
  2. Personal Privacy
  3. Copyright/Patent/Trademark reform and abuse
It’s virtually guaranteed the articles would vary in quality, but I have to say I was impressed with the level of discussion at hand. No Safe Harbor is no “let us use bit torrent to our hearts’ content and damn the rest of the world”; in parts it offers elaborate and philosophical discussions. I was particularly taken by the article discussing ideas for the implementation of liquid democracy through the use of the Internet as an enabling tool: the discussions there were similar in mind and spirit to those raised by Robert Heinlein in his science fiction masterpiece The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Just like Heinlein, this and other articles are able to pinpoint some of the glaring problems with the way our modern day democracies work and offer alternatives for improvement.
Alas, there are problems with those suggestions. First and foremost, we might and we should act to make our democracies true liberal democracies, yet I the cynic in me that keeps bumping into total indifference in matters of politics by much if not most of Australian society may as well ask if all this effort is worth our while (of course it is; the problem is with the way our systems of education work, or rather don’t). The next problem is to do with the abilities of the pirate parties to change the system from within given how hard it is to get elected: it’s one thing to do so in parts of mainland Europe, where a proportional voting system is in place; it’s quite another to do so in countries like the USA, UK or Australia with their first past the post systems. The UK’s recent failed ballot that tried to change their voting system proves my two points. I guess we can only try!
Relatively short, varied and interesting, No Safe Harbor is an interesting and thought provoking collection of articles coming from a political party genuinely trying to think freshly.
Overall: I was impressed. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Adequate disclosure: I am currently a member of the Australian Pirate Party.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

A Separation

Lowdown: The separation of an Iranian couple causes further catastrophe.
Review:
What do us Westerners know about Iran? Follow the media and you won’t be blamed for regarding it as a war mongering theocracy intent on blowing the world up. Look more carefully and you would see a moderate nation brimming with intellect that is held captive by a theocracy many, if not most of its inhabitants, do not want. To me A Separation, an Iranian movie taking place at Iran, brought with it an opportunity to see what lies beneath and get an understanding, as misrepresenting as any movie could be, for that country. If I could enjoy the film as well then all the better!
We start A Separation by being introduced to a husband (Peyman Moadi) and wife (Leila Hatami) arguing over the wife’s right to leave her husband before some judge (hiding behind the camera). We learn the wife wants a separation so she could leave Iran armed with this visa the couple got, but that the husband doesn’t want to leave because he wants to take care of his older father. The verdict? The wife can leave, but the daughter stays with the husband.
This separation sets the scene for the drama that follows around the treatment of the grandfather in a household that now no longer has a built in woman’s touch. A caretaker is hired to help, but being religious she has problems doing the basic stuff a caretaker of an old person should be able to do: things like dealing with an unanticipated urination. Genuine trouble follows quickly as direct result of the separation, putting not just our family but also the caretaker’s under the hammer. What follows is strong, serious drama, played and portrayed very convincingly and in a touching manner. A Separation is basic [family] drama at its best, if a bit over long.
It is nice to see a movie bring forth the matter of caretaking for the old and how much of a burden this can be for the young. It thus presents two issues we prefer to ignore most of the time: the way society is ill equipped to deal with old people, as if telling us that once we’ve stopped being productive we’re redundant; and the way the life of the old can be such a torture one wonders whether it is worth keeping, all the while religious driven conservatism keeps humans as the only species unallowed euthanasia. (Note the question of euthanasia is never raised by A Separation; it’s just that I could not avoid thinking about it.)
However, by far the most interesting aspect of A Separation was the Iran factor. Witnessing how the religious behave themselves and comparing it to the more secular characters, appreciating the way woman are required to behave in the presence of men and the way they cover their heads, and visiting official establishments such as courts and other government offices all tell the tale of a similar yet different world to ours. To me, A Separation is as good an alternative to the tour of Iran I'm forbidden to have as I could get, and an interesting one at that. Once again I learn to value the foreign film!
It is interesting to note the way A Separation was shot. Location wise, everything looks ordinary and most locations are quite gray and dreary. The camera hardly bothers taking grabbing the attention, and music is virtually never there – just dialog and sound effects. It’s a bare bones approach, it’s low budget, and it works.
Best scene: I liked the court scenes between the husband and the caretaker for their cultural aspects. Totally unlike any court scene setting we are used to!
Overall: Very interesting for multiple reasons. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Headhunters

Lowdown: The life of a head-hunter moonlighting in art theft gets complicated when his two professions collide.
Review:
How often do I get to watch Norwegian films? Come to think of it, did I ever watch a film from Norway? I don’t know, but having watched Headhunters I would definitely like to give this piece of Scandinavia a go. It’s been a while since a thriller managed to feel as authentic while genuinely surprising me with its twists the way Headhunters did, and for that I am grateful.
Roger (Aksel Hennie) is not only short; he’s also not the nicest guy ever. To compensate for his inferiority complex he goes for a glamorous woman by his side, Diana, an artist with exhibitions of hers opening left and right (Synnøve Macody Lund). To ensure Diana sticks with him he throws money at her, money that doesn’t come from his day job as a headhunter but rather money that comes from sophisticated heists of coveted paintings. Art and glamor are not enough for our Roger: he also has a mistress, Lotte (Julie R. Ølgaard), whom he uses and abuses.
Our crafty Roger seems on top of his complicated life. That illusion shatters, however, upon his introduction to Clas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a new arrival from Holland. Not only is Clas perceived as a threat due to his familiarity with Diana, he is also a tall ex commando that seems to fit the job our Roger is currently headhunting for like a glove. One suspicion leads to another and our hero Roger finds himself in the thick of something larger than he ever anticipated. And as complex as the premises may sound, everything ends up connected.
The first thing I noticed about Headhunters was its authenticity. Sure, the plot is more than a bit far fetched; but everything else feels so real one can easily suspend their disbelief. This authenticity presents itself best through various scenes of sex and nudity: unlike what we are used to seeing from Hollywood, these are not choreographed to look like something unearthly. Neither are they choreographed to keep the film’s rating down. They’re just choreographed to look lifelike, and it works. The same level of authenticity applies to the film’s violence: while I wouldn’t present Headhunters to a child there’s nothing to shock an adult with; the trick, however, is in making it feel real. Altogether, quite an achievement if you ask me.
The second thing I noticed as I watched Headhunters is the way the plot twists managed to take my perception of the film as I knew it and twist it this way and then that way repeatedly. When I started watching Headhunters I sort of expected it to go down one path but then it took another; and then another, and later even another. It’s a caper/sting film, but unlike the majority of these it actually works in stinging its viewer.
Upon coupling Headhunters’ authenticity to its originality, the question begging to be asked is why we can’t have more like this one. The answer is sadly obvious: Hollywood, being managed the way it is by bean counters, lacks the will to try and take us further into the realms we are not used to seeing; it much prefers showing us the same film again and again. Frankly, given the costs of film making and marketing, I can’t blame them much. Yet I also cannot avoid concluding that perhaps I should seek my refuge with “foreign” cinema more often than I normally do given its obvious quality edge. In other words, I should not let the mere availability of new Blu-ray releases dictate what I end up watching.
Best scene: I liked the way Headhunters first introduces us to Roger, his stylish and lavish house, and then – panning through to the shower room – his wife as she’s just drying herself after a shower and kisses our [anti] hero. Very flashy, very well done, and able to convey a lot in quite a brief a moment.
Somewhat different yet just as effective is the scene where our hero is forced to hide deep inside a pile of sh*t. I recommend you watch the film to learn more about this.
Overall: Headhunters takes that surprising feeling that came with Anthony Zimmer a step further. It’s a solid thriller deserving 4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers Of The Koran

Lowdown: A Jewish boy and an old Arab general store owner become like son and father.
Review:
There is a lot going for Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran (2003), or by its French name Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran. It’s a film set in Paris. It’s a film discussing the relationship between a Jewish boy and an old Arab. It’s a film starring Omar Sharif. And as the film starts, the promises seem to be delivered.
We follow young Mois, or Momo (Pierre Boulanger) as he’s commonly called. We are introduced to Momo as a young child when he’s given a piggy bank and told how to save money; then we fast forward to the 16 year old Momo that breaks his pig and uses the money to lose his virginity through a sympathetic prostitute just across the street from where he lives. A prostitute who, like the rest of her guild and like the Arab shop owner Monsieur Ibrahim (Sharif) know our Momo for many years now. After all, at this Parisian quarter during the fifties everybody knows everybody else.
Once thus introduced, we learn more about Momo’s family. His mother left him together with his better-at-everything brother. His father is a hard working man leaving Momo in charge of running the household. With these harsher circumstances coupled with natural curiosity, Momo gets gradually closer and closer to Ibrahim. So close that they, in effect, become like father and son.
Now comes the hard part. The problem with Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers Of The Koran comes as a result of where the film takes this relationship to. I get the Jewish-Arab metaphor and I get the two kin spirits getting closer, but I did not get where it is that Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers Of The Koran takes the relationship to. Perhaps that is the charm of the film; in my view, and without providing much in the way of spoilers, it is too detached. As in, what is their [convertible] car trip to Turkey trying to imply?
Thus what starts promising ends up disappointing. At an hour and a half long, and with the first half passing quite quickly, the rest of Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers Of The Koran can even feel tedious and boring.
Best scene: Given the obvious tensions involved with losing one’s virginity I thought that scene was done really well. Probably much better than the way American films would have made it to be.
Overall: Interesting at first but bordering the hazy at its second half. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Escape from New York

Lowdown: A criminal needs to rescue the American President from Manhattan, now a giant apocalyptic jail.
Review:
1981’s Escape from New York is one of those film that had huge impact on me. At the personal level, this is one of those films my uncle took this child to see (a matinee at then’s huge Tel Aviv cinema). As per the standards back then, it took many years till I got to watch the film again. While later I owned the laserdisc and enjoyed director’s John Carpenter’s commentary track, it wasn’t until the nineties that we were able to start watching the films we wanted to watch when we wanted to watch them. In the mean time, Escape from New York had acquired mythological status: as kids we used to hold our umbrellas backwards on our shoulder, mimicking Snake Plissken’s nonchalant hold of his silencer equipped Mini Uzi.
Let me introduce you to Snake's story.
The future world of 1997 endures open hostilities between the USA and the USSR. The American President (Donald Pleasence) is on his way to meet opposing heads of state carrying on him information that could help achieve peace (that info is stored on a cassette!). Alas, his plane is hijacked and crashed; the president himself escapes in a pod that crashed in the middle of Manhattan. The catch is that the Manhattan of the future is not what we would expect it to be. The effective capital of the world? Nope! Crime rates in the USA have reached such level it is now an enclosed jail. No one that enters it may come out ever again, which makes it into a prisoner ran anarchy. Can the president survive there, let alone come out?
The ever cool and resourceful prison warden Hauk (Lee Van Cleef, the bad from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) comes up with a plan. Instead of coming in with helicopters and guns blazing, a recipe for a dead president, he’s sending Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell): this ex war hero turned criminal should be able to both blend in and escape with the president. Even if, by today’s standards, he is dressed in exquisitely gay looking boots and fatigues. To give our Snake a push in the right direction, Hauk has him injected with poison that would kill him in 24 hours: our hero has to get in and out of New York within that time, president and cassette intact, to receive the antidote. Can he do it? Well, can paint dry?
The core of Escape from New York takes place at New York itself. The big idea behind the film is to show the dark side of the grand New York we are familiar with: a place where you don’t stand a chance of survival if you go along Broadway at night, where the Twin Towers are a dump and where the famous library acts as a makeshift oil field. In contrast to the white president, New York is even ruled by the black Duke of New York (Isaac Hayes). While this vision of New York may thus appear dark even in the literal sense, Escape from New York knows how to be funny, too. Not just funny in the sense of being outdated (tough man’s clothing now appearing gay, audio cassettes) but rather the dry sense of humor many of the characters have an abundance of, particularly Snake.
The casting works like a charm. Perhaps due to most characters being type cast they all fit their roles well. Russell himself, as our hero, has never looked better.
Best scene: The Duke of New York forces the president to say the Duke’s number 1. The scene demonstrates how well Escape from New York manages to create an alter ego world.
Overall:
Escape from New York is a low budget film, no doubt about it, but it shows that a great idea can work even without a huge bank account. I recently spoke here how Arthur portrays the glamorous New York I have had the pleasure of visiting in my childhood. By the same token, Escape from New York depicts the dark side of that same New York. I suspect many would argue the years didn’t do too much good to this already often silly film, but I will always cherish it and save a warm place by the fire for it. 4.5 out of 5 stars from me.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A Universe from Nothing by Lawrence Krauss

Lowdown: Discussing the implications of cosmology’s latest findings.
Review:
I was first exposed to Laurence Krauss a few years ago through the publishing of a debate of he held with Richard Dawkins over the pages of Scientific American. A while later the Richard Dawkins Foundation released a video of Krauss presenting an hour long lecture telling us how our universe came to be from nothing. That video was so successful I put it on my blog; now, after viewing in the millions, Krauss went to expand and elaborate on his message through a book: A Universe from Nothing.
A Universe from Nothing sets out to achieve the seemingly impossible: explain to the laymen what cosmology, combined with particle physics, have to tell us about this world we live in. The trick is to do so in a manner that allows the non physicists amongst us to comprehend the message. So far, I can attest to have read but a few books that manage to convey the full extent of scientific discoveries in a manner that’s understandable to the average person; The Selfish Gene wins my vote for the best of this lot. Can A Universe from Nothing follow on Richard Dawkins’ masterpiece? Well, it sure tries.
In order to achieve its goal, A Universe from Nothing starts off with an overview of cosmology’s history, from Newton and Galileo to the very latest. Using that overview, Krauss goes on to explain his book’s main claim: our universe was created out of nothing. First he shows how modern physics explains the universe coming out of nothing in the sense of empty space, then he goes on to show how modern physics explains how empty space itself can come out of nothing. Given cosmic scale, what can happen does happen – hence our universe being here. All of the above is explained in a manner that is often challenging yet, in my book, on the digestible side of comprehensible and well worth its readers’ investments. Score one for A Universe from Nothing being able to explain cosmology in popular terms the way The Selfish Gene managed with evolution.
The Selfish Gene went a step further, though, and discussed the implications of the science it presents on the way we view and live our lives. That, I argue, was exactly what made that book so great. And now, A Universe from Nothing does just that with cosmology: the realization we are living in a universe that materialized out of nothing has significant impact on the way we regard our place in the universe and the meaning we associate to our lives. Just like Dawkins before him, Krauss goes to elaborate just how cosmology’s findings trounce all over our religions.
Darwin already took the toll of explaining living things away from religion, relegating god to a lower league of involvement with us being here. Along comes Krauss to show that god’s remaining biggest credit – the credit for creating something out of nothing – is meaningless in a universe begging to come out of nothing without any external help, thank you very much. The God of the Gaps has just been shrunk a few orders of magnitude further: our evidence based understanding of the universe no longer needs that myth in order to explain why there is a universe around us.
The latter is further emphasized by non other than Richard Dawkins himself. In his closing words for A Universe from Nothing, Dawkins compares Krauss’ achievement with this book to that of Darwin’s and his book[s]. I fully concur: while Krauss may not have acquired his findings in as individual a manner as Darwin, the implications of A Universe from Nothing are just as revolutionary to our understanding of our place in the universe.
Overall: A Universe from Nothing is not only a book that will teach you a lot of up to date popular science, it will also act as an eye opener. It is therefore a great book; an important book. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
P.S. I am very much looking forward to meeting Lawrence Krauss at next week’s Global Atheist Convention, to be held at Melbourne. He seems to have all the makings of classic heroes of mine.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Arthur

Lowdown: A super rich dude stands to lose it all for love.
Review:
I still remember the night this child's parents came back home after watching 1981's Arthur at the cinemas. To my inevitable question on whether they liked the movie they just watched, my mother replied by saying it was one of the most wonderful films she ever saw. Having seen it myself many times since, I agree: Arthur is a wonderful film that has a lot going for it.
Arthur (Dudley Moore) is a spoiled and very childish adult drowning in his family's millions without having to worry about anything in the world, without having to do anything, and with people looking after his everything. The result is a bit of a brat that abuses the opportunities coming his way as he drowns them in alcohol and hookers. A nice brat, though.
In order to ensure he keeps on getting his family's millions, Arthur needs to follow orders and marry Susan (Jill Eikenberry, of L.A. Law fame), a fellow inheritor of family millions. Arthur doesn't want to do it but can't imagine living without all that money. Until, that is, he stumbles on this charming shop lifter, Linda (Liza Minnelli) and falls in love. What should our Arthur do? Follow his heart and lose his millions, or follow the millions and lose his heart? In order to choose wisely he needs to grow up, but that may be too big a challenge. Only Arthur's loyal servant, old Hobson (John Gielgud) can help make the right decision there.
As comedies go, Arthur is at a rather unique position. It is not only a romantic comedy, it is also a feel good movie: how lovely it is for us commoners to see that even those loaded with money have problems! And how nice it is to see one of them on the brink of becoming one of us! By the same token, it is even nicer to see how one of us (Minnelli) can all of a sudden become "one of them": not unlike Pride and Prejudice, Arthur gives us the illusion that if we play our cards right we might end up with our own Mr Darcy and live in Pemberley / an outrageously expensive apartment on New York's upper east side.
All of the above is magnified through the brilliant cast assembled here. Gielgud's performance has long been acknowledged, but it also has to be said Moore is terrific and oozing of comedy talent. Talking comedy, Linda's father is played by no other than Barney Martin - the guy who later grew up to portray Seinfeld's father. However, I find Minnelli's casting the most interesting: they didn't go with the default supermodel type looks you would have expected for the role but rather went with someone that seems, well, ordinary. By choosing this path the filmmakers managed to make Arthur that much more successful in the delusion department.
Best scenes: Anything with Gilgood in it.
Overall: They don’t make rom-coms like that anymore. 4 out of 5 stars.