JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: Elf (2003)

Directed by: Jon Favreau
Cast: Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Peter Dinklage

Written by Sarah Buddery

Arguably the greatest Christmas film ever, and easily the most quotable, Elf is the festive family staple that you’ll wish you could watch more than once a year.

Whilst Will Ferrell’s “man-baby” routine may be a little tiresome in some of his other more adult comedies, in Elf, it is perfectly pitched and suits the innocence and naivete of Buddy the Elf perfectly.

Elf is one of those rare, recent (although it is 15 years old this year!) Christmas films that has shown the test of time and still tops many people’s festive favourites. Everyone knows the story by now, but Elf follows the story of Buddy (Ferrell), a human who finds his way to the North Pole when he is just a baby, and is subsequently raised by Elves, believing himself to be one of them too. When he finds out he is in fact a human, and his biological Father lives in New York City, Buddy embarks on a journey through the seven levels of the candy cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops and finally walks through the Lincoln Tunnel in search of his Daddy.

In the magical realm of New York, Buddy finds his family and tries his best to blend in. And this is of course when the hilarity of Elf kicks in. Elf succeeds in being consistently funny and delivering laughs and memorable moments in abundance. It has in fact been a Christmas tradition of mine for a few years now to attend the quote-a-long screenings at the Prince Charles Cinema, and nothing quite spreads the Christmas cheer like a room full of people (mostly adults!) screaming “SANTAAAAAAAAAAAA” at the appropriate moment.

Aside from Ferrell, this film has a host of other great performances, including one from a very young (and blonde!) Zoey Deschanel and James Caan, most well-known for being part of the Corleone family in The Godfather. A very different role in Elf, as you can well imagine, Caan is great as the put-upon Dad, and his onscreen relationship with Ferrell’s Buddy, is particularly wonderful.

Part of Elf’s enduring, endearing quality is that it has all the elements of a perfect Christmas movie. It is about as Christmassy as you can get, it’s full of jokes for all the family, and it delivers the perfectly wrapped message of Christmas spirit, believing in Santa, and the importance of family that really helps to cement it as a Christmas classic.

There’s not much more that can be said about Elf that hasn’t been said already. It is the staple of my festive film watching, and I’m sure it is for you too. Ignore anyone who says this is a kids film, it is a film for everyone, whether you grew up loving it or are a recent convert. It isn’t Christmas until you’ve watched Elf, so settle down with a bottle of syrup and get ready to sing loud for all to hear, “Santa Claus is coming to town!”

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JUMPCUT’s Favourites: (500) Days of Summer

Year: 2009
Directed by: Marc Webb
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Chloe Grace Moretz, Matthew Grey Gubler.

WRITTEN BY JESSICA PEÑA

When I first watched 500 Days of Summer, I was a teenager obsessed with the glorious portrayals of love and loss in films. It made me wonder, ‘Are relationships that fragile, or are the people too naive and self indulged to be in one?’ Well, looking back, the answer is kind of both. The trials and tribulations of romance in a modern culture are much too complicated to see it in only one perspective. What is someone’s untouched desire is another’s passing by. Everyone has their own plans for life, and sometimes love gets in the way; and vice versa. Ask me about my favourite film and you’ll be knocked with a list of top ten that include the likes of ‘Ex Machina’, ‘Before Sunset’, and ‘Inglorious Basterds’. Ask me about a favourite film, and sometimes I will respond with the indie gem, ‘500 Days of Summer.’ In it, we meet Tom Hansen, a greeting card copywriter and big romantic, who never stopped looking for what went wrong in his relationship. Like the season, Summer was her name. She doesn’t believe in love, but she managed to capture Tom’s heart, leading to an unrequited love.

This is one of my favourite films, because a) Joseph Gordon-Levitt , and b) Zooey Deschanel. If you know me, you will understand. The main focus is on these characters, and they are my favourite pairing for this movie, because Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel have a history tied to their friendship. They’ve starred in earlier movies together, and the chemistry, when it comes to a romance flick, is everything. Gordon-Levitt’s character first bonds with Summer in an elevator over the classic, “There is A Light that Never Goes Out,” by The Smiths. We witness the start of something right then and there. What Tom thought would be everlasting was only Summer’s short-term spark.

Oh, heartbreak. You replay the times and the memories you once shared with someone and you look for those glitches that turned things upside down. The story here is told marking certain days in which Tom knew Summer, and it goes back and forth. In past relationships you once cherished, you seem to recollect first the good times; those unforgettable memories, and that’s how Webb decided to arrange the film. Tom’s infatuation with the idea of having Summer grows into an unhealthy self love. I love this film, because not every story has a happy ending, and ‘500 Days of Summer’ lets us know from the beginning. “This is not a love story. This is a story about love.” The narrative is bluntly familiar. Tom meets this girl, falls in love with her, and would do anything to be with her and prove that they belong with one another. The problem is that she doesn’t believe in love and this sudden commitment that Tom is yearning for. She’s out here living for the now and taking her happiness into consideration first.

The pair seem to hit it off effortlessly in the beginning until their futures don’t align. More than anything, Tom wants to fulfil his fantasies of a happy life with Summer. You really begin to feel for him and this anguish she is deliberately or non-deliberately putting him through. There’s a rather thick line between reality and expectation, as shown in a sequence of double shots of what Tom wishes for versus his sad reality. Sometimes, our vision is skewed by our infatuation with a fantasy. “Just because she likes the same bizzaro crap you do, doesn’t mean she’s your soulmate,” explains his friend Paul. That quote alone teaches us a thing or two about independence and young ignorance when it comes to the subject of romance.

‘500 Days of Summer’ is quirky, different, and closer to the reality of love than many other romance movies.There’s a karaoke session, IKEA shopping, a musical number, some architectural arm drawing, and the inevitable wreckage of young love. It goes without saying, “People change. Feelings change. It doesn’t mean that the love once shared wasn’t true or real. It simply means that sometimes when people grow, they grow apart.” This film speaks volumes to the scarring a relationship can leave, but it also understands how one learns to grow and heal from it.

It’s one of my favourites because it lets one look back on love in friendly retrospect and mature as a person. It’s graceful enough to not let Summer be seen as the enemy, as manipulative as she may seem at first. Truth be told, she isn’t perfect, and it’s her side of the relationship we don’t see. After multiple rewatches, I’ve learned that she was never in the wrong for wanting what she wants, when she wants it. She’s an open book with Tom from the beginning, and it plays with our hearts, but helps the film become a cultural impact. ‘500 Days of Summer’ could be any one of our coming-of-age stories. Someone’s day “(1)” could be the beginning of the best chapters of their life, for any number of reasons. Marc Webb’s film flourishes in the way it presents the discovery, growth, tarnish, and new hope for life from a love that once existed for our two characters. Ask me about love and I will always reference and admire this film.