Archives for posts with tag: about schmidt

If you’re already struggling to stick to your new year’s resolutions, take some inspiration from the movies. Whether it’s finding a new job, taking risks or embracing adventure, there’s a film to help see you through, well, until February at least.

Office Space (1999)

Stuck in traffic, headed for a job you despise, with bosses you despise even more, the joy of office politics and bureaucratic pettiness sucking the life out of you. You’re then trapped in a cubicle with not even a glimpse of daylight, being forced to work extra hours with nothing to look forward to.

Meet Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston), Initech employee. Peter hates his life but finds it too hard to say no. When Initech hires consultants set on cutting the workforce, Peter (with a little help from a hypnotherapist) decides to take things in hand and royally screw them over.

No one’s suggesting you go to the criminal lengths of Peter and his disillusioned colleagues to get back at the company you loathe, but it might just give you the push to find a career you’re truly in love with.

 

About Schmidt (2002)

Warren R. Schmidt (Jack Nicholson), 66 years old of Omaha, Nebraska pours out his feelings in letters to a Tanzanian orphan he sponsors through Childreach. He always dreamt of being someone, of owning his own business, of going places, but life sort of got in the way.

After he retires and his wife passes suddenly, he needs to re-evaluate his future and work out what to do with the rest of his life. Warren goes on a road trip in his RV, on a pilgrimage of sorts, and revisits his old stomping grounds. He tries to find meaning, some sort of significance to life, and learns a lot about himself.

About Schmidt is a great film to watch if you’re dealing with change, trying to work out what you really want from life, or struggling to see where your place is in the world.

 

Adaptation (2002)

Adaptation certainly has many life lessons to teach us. Charlie (Nicolas Cage) is a screenwriter who is struggling to come up with an adaptation of the best-selling book, The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep). As Charlie’s writer’s block deepens, his insecurities heighten and his self-loathing reaches a crescendo. If this wasn’t bad enough his less talented, over-confident twin brother, Donald (also played by Nicolas Cage), is offered big bucks for his hammy, clichéd thriller script.

Inspired by the real Charlie Kaufman’s struggle to adapt the book, this film is about taking risks, controlling your inner demons and ultimately avoiding winding up a walking cliché.

 

Mary and Max (2009)

A young Australian girl named Mary (Toni Collette) who is unhappy at home decides to write to a random person in an American phone book, who turns out to be a middle-aged New Yorker called Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Both are friendless with little hope for the future – Max is overweight and depressed and Mary’s parents have little time for her.

Battling loneliness and negative influences, they forge a connection and correspond for the next two decades. Despite their obvious differences, through their mutual support they work to change their paths. Mary and Max is about being spontaneous, trying to stay positive and making lasting connections.

 

Up (2009)

The young Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner) is one step ahead of most people – he’s found his soul mate early on and they settle in a lovely home. When life begins throwing them curve balls they stick together and work things through. However, their lifelong dream of visiting Paradise Falls in South America always seems just out of reach. When his wife Ellie passes away, Carl shuts himself off and fights to save his cherished home from demolition.

This poignant tale teaches us to embrace adventure and voyage into the world but ultimately to follow your dreams before it’s too late. Take that trip of a lifetime now. Find a way to make it happen. Don’t wait for a health scare, a relationship breakup or retirement to make changes or live the life you’ve always wanted.

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When two of your favourite worlds collide, it’s particularly brilliant, especially when it happens to be the influence of one of your most revered artists in a truly great film.

 

Edward Hopper’s ‘House by the Railroad’ in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960)

Hopper’s Realist depictions of American life were often described as silent theatre, so it’s no surprise that his work has inspired many filmmakers. House by the Railroad shows a beautiful and grand – yet seemingly ordinary – Victorian house, just like the one influenced by it in Psycho – the Bates Motel. The suspense used so prominently in Hitchcock’s films is ideally suited to the tense atmosphere projected in the works of Edward Hopper.

 

Marc Chagall’s ‘The Wedding’ (1944) and several other Chagall influences in Norman Jewison’s Fiddler on the Roof (1971).

The Wedding depicts the nuptials of Chagall’s brother-in-law, which he painted shortly after his wife (and muse) Bella’s death. The happy occasion therefore takes on a sinister note in the painting due to his frame of mind at the time. Whilst there is no exact replica of this scene in Fiddler on the Roof (although there is a wedding), the entire stage production, including its name, was influenced by the life and work of Chagall: village life during the Russian Empire, smallholdings, shack-like wooden houses (Chagall’s town of Vitebsk was built entirely from wood), both Jewish and Christian residents (at this time Vitebsk was very split) and of course Hasidic tradition. Tradition is extremely important, as evidenced in the recurrent song of the same name sung by the main character, Tevye. Chagall was courageous – he embraced his religion and put it out there for the world to see at a time when it was dangerous to do so.

the-wedding

 

Otto Dix’s ‘Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden’ (1926) in Bob Fosse’s Cabaret (1972)

As a predominant German writer and poet of the same era as Dix, he was struck by von Harden’s androgynous and unusual look, as well as her artistic vision. I imagine the reason for recreating this painting in Cabaret was to not only choose a visual look similar to the Berlin intelligentsia, but to celebrate the work of a German artist so closely associated with the First World War.

 

Jacques-Louis David’s ‘Death of Marat’ (1793) in Alexander Payne’s About Schmidt (2002)

This work depicts the murder of Jean-Paul Marat, leader of the French Revolution. Stabbed in his bathtub, he is seen with quill and parchment. In About Schmidt, Jack Nicholson’s character Warren falls asleep in the bath whilst composing a letter. Warren has had a tough time – his wife recently died, he feels redundant after retiring and his only daughter is about to marry a no-hoper. I’m not sure what the exact reasoning for the representation of The Death of Marat is, but my crass interpretation is that due to all his recent issues and feelings of redundancy, the man he once was is now gone.

 

John Everett Millais’ ‘Ophelia’ (1852) in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia (2011)

This beautiful Pre-Raphaelite painting portrays Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet drifting in the river after she falls in. Caught up in the beauty of her surroundings she floats for a while before succumbing to a watery death. In Melancholia, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is a newlywed whose personal relationships are strained and she becomes increasingly depressed. The earth is in danger after news that a planet is set to collide with it. Ophelia’s calm demeanour despite the fact that she is about to drown is mimicked by Justine’s reaction to her own – and the world’s – impending doom.