Thursday, December 18, 2008

Love Actually in (Sorta) Real Time: One Week to Christmas

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It's one week to Christmas...
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...as Colin arrives at the flat of his friend Tony. (By the way, for the interest of those Love Actually archaeologists, I've Google-Indiana-Jonesed that Tony lives upstairs at 52 Golborne Road in North Kensington. The clue is, of course, the Lisboa Delicatessen next door. You should pop in there and stock up on sandwiches for your trip to America, Colin! Speaking of being prepared for all sorts of emergencies, it's raining cats and dogs here as he knocks on Tony's door. Let's hope Colin hasn't forgotten to pack his rubbers!

Colin has to stay with Tony because he's sublet his flat to pay for the trip to Wisconsin, which Tony still thinks is a crazy idea. (Seriously, I've been to Wisconsin, and if you like cheese it's dandy, but I'd rather take London, thank you very much.)
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But Colin's convinced he'll find beautiful, sexy, available women in America, and because he must have been a Boy Scout in a previous life, he's come prepared: his rucksack is "chock-a-block full of condoms." So, good, he hasn't forgotten his rubbers after all.
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Meanwhile, back at the set of the lush historical movie, Jack asks Judy out, and she's delighted. Curtis has a bit of fun with this whole (relatively minor) through-plot: every time we see film body doubles Jack and Judy they're undressed and (simulating on-screen) nookie. they're progressively nakeder, but their sweet and innocent flirtation belies their total lack of underwear.
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In fact, these are really the only two stills I can show you from this scene and still be safe for Little Stuffed Bulls. (And this one is cropped for innocence's sake:)
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Make whatever connection you want between the rhythm of Jack and Judy's work and the persistent (and improving) beat of Sam on his drum set as we flash for a second to the Daniel and Sam plot...but if you do, you've got a dirty, dirty mind indeed.
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At their home, Karen greets a late Harry, who's been Christmas shopping, likely far, far away from Rufus.
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And, as Emma Thompson characters around the cinemascopic world are apt to do, Karen snoops in Harry's pocket to find a small square box.
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We know what's in it, of course: minus holy leaf, cinnamon stick, and yoghurt, it's that necklace:
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Karen's excited, delighted, and other words that rhyme with ited. Um, say, far-sighted, indicted, and M. Night-ed Shyamalan, to name but a few. Well, wouldn't you be if you saw that your husband wasn't getting you a gift voucher for Angus Steak Houses again this Christmas and instead had actually sprung out for a lovely little piece of jewelry? Of course you would. Even tho' (and this is the important part) don't snoop around for gifts before Christmas. I have learned this the hard way. With mousetraps.

Karen helps her daughter and son rehearse for the Christmas school navitiy pageant. You know that if Emma Thompson is attached to a production, it's nothing but the best, and the cast is stellar, including a lobster and a special guest appearance by Barney as the baby Jesus. Well, that's the way I remember learning it in Sunday School, lobster included. Which, if ya ask me, doesn't seem to jibe at all with Leviticus 11:9-12...but whatcha gonna do?
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Speaking of learning: cut to the (fictional) "Central London School of Language," where, among an impressive variety of international students écoutezing et repetezing, being educated about the pencil of the cat of my aunt, sits Jamie, crash-learning Portuguese, well known as the language of love.
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Also, of seafood.
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See what I mean? Yeah, that's gonna come in handy wooing the woman you love, Jamie. Well, maybe if she's Linda Greenlaw. Or, a lobster.
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Meanwhile, Miss Sneakypants Karen is skulking around the Christmas tree (and don't you love the Brenda Lee version of that song?), snooping and poking and peeking and shaking and all the other stuff they say you're not s'posed to do with your Christmas presents, 'specially when it's only one week til Christmas. With young kids in the house, it's surprising that the presents are placed under the tree this prematurely (well, maybe they explained that Father Christmas has an early shift), but looks like it's not Daisy and Bernie that we need to be wary of, but Emma Thompson coming into our houses, snooping through our cupboards and opening presents early. You're gonna spoil the surprise for everyone, Karen!
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Hey look: remarkably familiar square box, ahoy!
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...complete with gift card. Man, Hallmark doesn't even come close to making a card for this sentiment. Thankfully. Mind you, it would certainly make Hoops & Yoyo more interesting, wouldn't it?
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Oh, don't let us stop you, Karen. You have a lovely little Christmas all by yourself. Cheatypants.
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Tony sees Colin off at Heathrow. As he passes from the UK to a plane to the good old-fashioned USA, no customs agent actually asks him if he has anything to declare, but Colin does anyway: "America, watch out! Here comes Colin Frissell! And he's got a big knob!"
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Golly. Nice of Colin to let us know that he has an unusually-sized door opener, but what's that got to do with anything? I mean, it's not as if he's David Letterman in Avengers #239:
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Eleven hours and three in-flight viewings of Tin Cup later, Colin lands at Milwaukee International...
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......hey, that sign's wrong! Milwaukee's airport is actually named General Mitchell International Airport. Named after this guy:


Colin immediately catches a Milwaukee cab to the cheese factory to the The Basilica of St. Josaphat to the Shotz Brewery a Regular Ordinary Joe's bar...not unlike, say, Cheers, or Archie Bunker's Place, or Quark's...
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...a bar which oddly features Budweiser beer instead of Old Milwaukee. What, did that cabbie take him all the way to St. Louis?
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As Colin gleefully orders up a King of Beers, a stunningly gorgeous girl sitting down the bar turns to him and smiles, intrigued by his English accent. This is Stacey (Ivana Milicevic), and on a scale of one to ten, she's taking this all the way up to eleven. (Mind you, she's no Keira Knightley, but who is?) Stacey is immediately intrigued by Colin; she thinks his accent is "cute." As Rudolph the Red-Nosed you-know-what would enthuse, "She thinks I'm cuuuuuuuute!"
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Stacey calls over her friend Jeannie (Mad Men's January Jones). Jeannie puts her best face forward...
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...whoops, here we go:
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Needly to say, Colin is chuffed. Everything he told Tony is true: every woman in America is more beautiful than the last one...
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...not to mention utterly charmed by him:
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Could it get any better? Sure, why not? Enter Stacey and Jeannie's friend Carol Anne (Elisha Cuthbert...don't ImageGoogle her at work!): "she's crazy about English guys!"
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This sort of odds, Colin likes.
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But that still leaves the problem: where's this London tourist going to stay while he's in the states?
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Ah, cooperation. Just like we learned about on Sesame Street. It's nice to see everything work out so smoothly. Oh wait, no, there's one problem: Colin still hasn't met the fourth roommate, Harriet. "Don't worry," says Stacye. "You're totally going to like her, because she's the 'sexy one.'"
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And so, as snow falls on a cold, cold Milwaukee night, there's a little bit of human warmth and kindness in this world...
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...also, there are shadow puppets. Neat!
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And while it's still not quite exactly Christmas Eve, The Household That Allows Emma Thompson To Paw Through Her Christmas Presents tempts those poor kids even further with a scene in which everyone's allowed to open a present early.
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Once again, Miss Thompson ruins the fun by declaring that it's her turn to open a present, making a beeline for the square package from Harry. Don't worry, kids...I'm sure your Easter baskets are sitting in the kitchen and you'll be allowed to help yourself to a sweetie each from it tomorrow, after your mum has gone through and scarfed all the Cadbury eggs.
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Emma Thompson is a great actor, but there is one essential test for acting: when you have to pretend you don't know what is in a package. This expression, ladies and gentlemen, is why Emma Thompson has an Oscar and you don't.
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Mind you, last time I thought I knew what was in a Christmas box I got all excited and shrieked YAY LEGO DEATH STAR before noticing the present was really slippers. Man, you wanna color my face red! And Karen's about to get the same hit to the gut when the gold heart necklace she thought she was unwrapping turns out to be a compact disc: Joni Mitchell's 2000 CD Both Sides Now.
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"To further your emotional education," beams Harry, proving that despite the fact that he's being a lying, cheating, scum, he at least was paying attention to what Karen said earlier in the film.
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So who actually did get the necklace? No extra guesses on this one, folks. Boo, hiss!
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Full of nervous false cheer, Karen excuses herself to the bedroom, the CD still in hand, and puts it in the CD player...
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...where, despite the CD player showing track 7 (who's sleeping at the continuity wheel?), she plays track 12, Joni's 2000 slow, bluesy remake of her own classic hit, "Both Sides Now."
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But now it's just another show
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It's loves illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all.

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Karen wipes away her tears...
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And...needlessly...she straightens the duvet at the foot of the bed, a lovely little bit of stage business...
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...and goes back out to be with her family.
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Thompson's silent scene in the bedroom is short but wonderfully sublime, and despite me poking fun at her and her character previously, you've a heart of stone if this scene doesn't bring a tear to your eye as she realizes that she's losing her husband, that everything she cares about is coming tumbling down. (Or, maybe, as far as she knows, the necklace might be in another box under the tree or hidden away by Harry, but we...and the scriptwriter...know better). It's only a minute or so, and aside from the smoky voice of Joni Mitchell there's no sound to the scene, but it rates as one of my favorite Emma Thompson moments of all time, especially the small gesture of needlessly tugging the bedclothes into place..,rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, on a much more personal scale.

Because still screenshots don't quite do it justice, here's the full scene (with part of the shopping sequence at the beginning to give it context):



Okay, stop sniffling, we're almost through. Sam and Daniel sum up their situation so far:
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Wow, that's some progressive parenting there, in'nt it?

Before we go, the Claudia Schiffer reference requires a brief comment. It's part of a longer running gag, which I haven't mentioned before this point because, frankly, I totally forgot. (Who says this isn't the Bully Age of Bovine Truth in Disclosure?) At Jo's funeral, Daniel's eulogy for his late wife begins:

Jo and I had a lot of time to prepare for this moment. Some of her requests, for instance...that I should bring Claudia Schiffer as my date to the funeral...I was confident she expected me to ignore.
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This gets a chuckle...as all good heartfelt funeral speeches should at least once...but there's a grain of a truth in there: Daniel is, indeed, much enamored of Claudia Schiffer. That his wife knew and enjoyed teasing him about this is proof that she was a very kind and loving soul indeed. Still, she's no Keira Knightley.
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If you check out the "deleted scenes" section of the Love Actually DVD (and if you don't own it, why don't you?!?), you'll find several scenes that expand on Daniel's interest in the pulchritudinous Miss Schiffer, as he Googles photos of her, clicks through to the succinctly-named website Claudia Schiffer Naked Naked Naked!, and

You just tried to click through to that site, didn't you? Shame on you. Also, it isn't a real site. (Already checked.)

Anyway, Daniel's computer is rapidly overrun with endless nasty pop-ups of a...shall we say...adult...nature, which Jo's father spots when he comes to visit, and Daniel offers Sam a hundred pounds to pretend it was he who did it...it's funny, but it's actually best deleted; it's slapstick and overkill, and isn't needed to cement the relationship between Daniel and Sam. As I've mentioned before, Richard Curtis does a wonderful job of giving us a simple economy of background on his characters, and the couple references so far to Claudia Schiffer are all we really do need to know that it's not just little stuffed bulls who have celebrity crushes.

Why do I mention it, with only one week til Christmas? Will it be important later on? Eh, maybe. Who knows? Nobody, unless you've been peeping at the DVD scenes ahead of schedule. So resist the impulse to spot that the butler did it, and meet me back here on Christmas Eve just in time to get everybody on stage for the big Cossack number. Wear your favorite reindeer jumper so I can spot you in the crowd, 'kay?


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy Beethoven's Birthday!

Edu-Manga: Beethoven
Tip Top #214
Beethoven #2


Ah, the things you learn about from comic strips.