Film diary: 5/20

If you’re on Letterboxd, I’m here.

Films seen: 12
Films directed by women: 1 (up 0)
Strong recommendations: Grease, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Moonrise Kingdom, Apocalypse Now

Again, the fewest films in a month so far, but I think I may have forgotten about one? Which would make it a steady thirteen as our regular minimum. We’ve been playing a lot more Warhammer, which can prevent a film being watched, and also finished off Gravity Falls, which I do recommend.

I’ve noticed that my quarantine comfort go-to is the musical. When I’ve foregone a film entirely, it’s been for a recording of a stage musical, so it’s more common than represented here. Actually, I did rewatch Swing Time in the last few months, probably April, which I haven’t logged, and that’s a great film. Consider it mentioned.

Full list follows:

Into the Woods (2014, dir. Rob Marshall)
I really like the musical. However, I don’t feel the film grasps its intellectual complexity, and seems more comfortable in the trad-fairy-tale mash-up of the first act, than in the adult drama exploring consequences and the way we raise children of the second act. There are some magnificent sequences – “Agony” is one of the greatest musical moments in film history. There are baffling decisions – Red being a child makes the Big Bad Wolf’s entire deal extra creepy. I would say it was a missed opportunity if it weren’t for the fact I can’t imagine the show being realised better on film – it needs the scale of the big studio picture in order to sell the first act, particularly since we’ve been saturated in high budget post-Carter fairy tale adaptations since its 1987 Broadway run. However, all the studios would have done the same damage to the story in order to sell that investment to the widest market. Also, without this film we wouldn’t have gotten Mary Poppins Returns, so for that we must be grateful. (2/5/20, rewatch)

Grease (1978, dir. Randal Kleiser)
Reasonably speaking, this film is rather flawed. Luckily, movies aren’t reasonable, so it’s an unassailable classic. (3/5/20, rewatch)

How to Talk to Girls at Parties (2017, dir. John Cameron Mitchell)
As far as coming-of-age movies go, I respect and admire how personal and weird this one is. I’m a little disappointed in myself that I don’t love it. (4/5/20, rewatch)

Sita Sings the Blues (2008, dir. Nina Paley)
It’s a nice little film. It strikes the same tone as all the indie graphic novels I enjoy, with some innovative animation on top of that. (9/5/20, rewatch)

The Thief and the Cobbler (1993, dir. Richard Williams)
It’s a shame this never got completed, and was instead unceremoniously ripped off by Aladdin then released in a massacred version (which I’ve never seen, so who knows, it might be Citizen Kane.) The Recobbled Cut approximates the film it might have been, but you can’t draw firm conclusions on a fan edit. From this version, it seems like the breathtaking and challenging animated sequences were the focus, and the somewhat lumpy and Orientalist narrative was somewhat of an afterthought. The Thief’s sequences are Looney Tunes-esque gems, whereas the Cobbler’s story is a bit so-what. If you’re a fan of animation, definitely seek it out, but sadly it’s more of a document of an idea than a film. (9/5/20, rewatch)

Jack and the Beanstalk (1974, dir. Gisaburō Sugii)
My housemate keeps insisting on showing me this film. I can’t speak for the Japanese version, although they have at least tried to make a fairly thin story work at feature length. The choices are a little out of place for a Western audience, but I’m sure that’s exactly what people from other cultures think when we make films about them.

I can’t even say they didn’t make an honest effort with the English language dub of it. The creators, for whatever reason, seemed to have a lack of confidence in the original film, so decided to alter it for their audience. They add songs, seemingly speed up/slow down/re-edit animation, and rehash the film to the point where they believed it was releasable. (I may be talking bollocks here, cos I haven’t seen the original, but that’s what it seemed like.)

The problem is the result. The songs are lame. The story is overlong and dull. The voice characterisation is dull. I would never voluntarily put this dub on myself, but thanks to the fact my housemate had it on video as a child, I’ve suffered through it twice, and will undoubtedly have to suffer through it again – or worse, pass on the virus to others, watching it with them to share my dislike of it. I’ve had similar thoughts recently of doing that with Ultraviolet, and it’s a bad road.

Nostalgia is bullshit. Don’t watch this, watch Castle in the Sky instead. (9/5/20, rewatch)

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018, dir. Ol Parker)
Oh I love this film. (16/5/20, rewatch)

Snatch (2000, dir. Guy Ritchie)
Full credit to the actors and the editor, but this film is all talk and no trousers. (26/5/20)

Moonrise Kingdom (2012, dir. Wes Anderson)
DELIGHTFUL. My new favourite Wes Anderson film? I’m rehearsing a theory that this is his Mulholland Drive. Like Lynch, Anderson is a director with a clear sensibility in evidence from the beginning. However, you can imagine many of their films made in slightly different ways, and they’d work just as well, or sometimes better. Wild at Heart could easily become a Coen Brothers movie. A naturalistic version of The Royal Tenenbuams could well have a more directly emotional impact. However, with both Mulholland Drive and Moonlight Kingdom the director’s sensibility matches the material so well, it actually makes the same approach on rest of their filmography much clearer. The hallucinatory soap opera nightmare of Mullholland Drive explains why Blue Velvet couldn’t be a traditional noir. The stilted conversations and pastel tones of Anderson’s work makes so much sense when he uses child actors to tell a story from a kids’ perspective, it lets you reflect on the emotional reticence of the adults in the film, and therefore you start seeing the children in all of Anderson’s adult protagonists. Films like these provide so clearly the lens through which the director understands the world, it allows you to see all of their work in better focus. (27/5/20)

Hairspray (1988, dir. John Waters)
This is a great flick. However, I will always choose to watch the musical version. That’s just how I’m built. (28/5/20)

John Wick (2014, dir. Chad Stahelski)
This is a great B-movie, with top fight choreography. It manage to have joy in the violence while maintaining a level tone, sticking with classic wry action movie humour rather than attempting Deadpool goofiness, without seeming self-serious. (30/5/20)

Apocalypse Now (1979, dir. Francis Ford Coppola)
This is as good a movie as everyone says it is, if not better. The latest restoration looks and sounds amazing, too. (31/5/20)