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Film diary: 6/20

If you’re on Letterboxd, I’m here.

Films seen: 15
Films directed by women: 3 (up 2)
Strong recommendations: Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, The Raid, Next Goal Wins, Booksmart, O.J.: Made in America

You’d be forgiven for thinking this blog is just a place to syndicatie my film reviews. I’ve had a few notes on Covid and Everything stuck in drafts for the last three-four months, but Covid and Everything has hindered my enthusiasm for most things. I’m also struggling to find things that feel worthwhile doing in the day. The reason I enjoy doing a film in the evening when we can is that it’s a one-off full meal that makes the day feel different than the one before. I’m very ready for days that feel different.

TV that’s been good includes the new season of What We Do In the Shadows, Staged, Into the Unknown: Making Frozen II, The Mandalorian, and Upright.

Full list follows:

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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:

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Film diary: 4/20

If you’re on Letterboxd, I’m here.

Films seen: 13
Films directed by women: 1 (up 0)
Strong recommendations: Knives Out, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Moulin Rouge!, Dirty Dancing

The fewest films in a month so far, but still working out as a film every two or three days. However, the first five films were watched in four days, with a further double bill on the 17th, so it felt much more irregular than that. I’ll probably save my chat around the “films directed by women” stat until the year-end wrap-up, which is likely to be January 2021, and looking that far in the future is not how I live my life. I will say that you rarely come across them by accident, certainly not by watching Hollywood fare. I could stand to make much more of an effort in that regard. The last two months it’s been 1, and both of them are co-directions.

The main reason there are fewer films is because this month we were peer-pressured into watching Tiger King. I don’t necessarily co-sign the hype on that show. It’s a fascinating story, and there’s never a dead moment. However, it’s still an episode or two more than I could stand spending that much time with those terrible and sad people. It wasn’t really what I was looking for in quarantine. It was absurd, but I don’t think the show ever read as funny to me. We watched the eps one by one, but I think we’d have done better to binge them, as the Netflix gods decree, which would have possibly evened out the experience for me. As it is, adding that on top of/alongside our usual TV schedule knocked out watching films completely for about two weeks, and I usually prefer watching a full film meal to frittering away every evening on TV shows.

Full list follows:

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Film diary: 3/20

If you’re on Letterboxd, I’m here.

Films seen: 21
Films directed by women: 1 (down 5)
Strong recommendations: Raiders of the Lost Ark, A Scanner Darkly, Fantasia, Cabaret

“I don’t suppose I’ll watch as many next month.” Too right. Also, I’ve really let this log slide. Although, looking through the archives has reminded me how many great movies I’ve watched this year. (Putting things on Letterboxd works out about as well as Goodreads for me. There’s phases where tracking helps me watch or read more, and phases where the practice of doing so puts me off. Clearly we slipped into the latter.)

I’ve done a blog about film habits this week, which you will find here. It was going to be in this post, but it was getting long. March for me was about rewatching Indiana Jones for the first time in years, and the launch of Disney+ expanding my access to loads of 70s kids films I will never watch.

Full list follows:

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Lady and the Tramp (2019, dir. Charlie Bean)

Doing a “live-action” remake of an animated film, particularly one as enduring as so many of Disney’s, is not actually a bad idea by definition. It is nakedly a commercial enterprise. The inherent conservatism of a company rehashing properties it’s already dined out on for decades for yet another round at the box office is undignified whoever’s doing it. That said, there’s no reason why this can’t result in a great film.

A lot of the Disney remakes aren’t great films. I’ve seen most of them now. The ones Linda Woolverton has (co-)written are the most interesting conceptually, since they are the revisionist takes on Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent, but the resulting films are the least successful. Then you have the remakes of the 90s films – Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Aladdin – which are relatively inoffensive, and make some interesting changes, but mostly they seem entirely unnecessary. I enjoyed 101 Dalmatians as a kid, and 102 less. I’d like to watch them again.

The Jungle Book and Cinderella are towards the top of the pile. It might be because they are more interested in the source material of the films, and the experience of watching the animated versions, rather than rather shallowly aping the original. It could be that Branagh and Favreau are more hit than miss when it comes to films on this scale. It could be dumb luck. In any case, they’re the only ones where I’d consider putting them on rather than the original once in a while, rather than hardly ever.

The best films are ones that fit the definition more dubiously, since they’re based on hybrid movies. Pete’s Dragon turns the musical comedy into a children’s fantasy adventure in the woods. It’s far from perfect, but I admire it, and I should seek out more films by David Lowery. The best is Mary Poppins Returns, which does the Force Awakens sequel-remake trick right. I love that film with bells on. It’s approaching Paddington when it comes to the best modern family entertainment.

So with all that throat-clearing out of the way we come to the remake of Lady and the Tramp. You’ve got to be honest about how you reacted to a film. Since it was released straight to Disney+, I had no confidence in it at all. However, not only was I pleasantly surprised, I really enjoyed it. Critically, it’s a game of two halves, to use a cliche. The CG dog faces never work, but the real dogs are very cute. The script essentially turns the slight original into a boilerplate pet adventure film, but the classical romance overtones really work. The song replacing “The Siamese Cat Song” is forgettable, but it’s 300% less racist.

Uncritically, it’s a warm hug of a film. The classic moments are recreated and improved upon. (“Bella Notte” is pretty funny, and still sweet.) The voice acting is never less than engaging throughout. The human actors are perfectly fine. “He’s a Tramp” is a more convincing musical number than the entirety of Cats. I highly recommend it, particularly in such strange and uncertain times. It tickles the part of my brain that loves Once and the Before Trilogy. It’s certainly worth spending the £5.99 or doing the free trial to get Disney+ and watch it. You may be surprised by how much you like it – although less likely now that I’ve hyped it up somewhat.

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Film diary: 2/20

If you’re on Letterboxd, I’m here.

Films seen: 30
Films directed by women: 6 (up 4)
Strong recommendations: Room 237, Clueless, Okja, Suspiria (1977), Parasite, The Lighthouse, Lady Bird, Blade Runner, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ocean Waves

Obviously, great month of film. I haven’t been reviewing them as I’ve been watching them this month, so it’s a much fuller diary than expected. I don’t expect I’ll watch as many next month.

Many of the new films have non-UK release dates, which I regret, but can’t be bothered to change. I’ve started tracking the number of films I’ve seen that have been directed by women to 1) keep me honest and 2) subtly pressure me into seeing more of them.

Quick note on inclusion: I put in short films if I remember to. I leave out behind-the-scenes docs unless I’m compelled otherwise. I’m making this up as I go along.

Full list follows:

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Film diary: 1/20

If you’re on Letterboxd, I’m here.

Films seen: 24
Films directed by women: 2
Strong recommendations: Little Women, Marriage Story, The Big Short, Midsommar

Full list follows:

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Little Women (2019, dir. Greta Gerwig)

Little Women is only a brilliant film if you want to cry all the way through it. It’s a very undignified experience. (I’ve been reading bits of the script, put online to help with Oscars nominations, and I’ve been tearing up reading that. Complete and utter shambles.) Awards are nonsense, but it deserves all the awards.

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Yooka-Laylee and Helping the Incompetent

As a quick addendum to my previous post, I got Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair for free from the Epic Games launcher, so I’ve been playing it a bit. I played through a bit of the previous game, which was a Banjo-Kazooie-inspired 3D platformer, and had some fun until I drifted, as I often do with video games.

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Spectre review

I’ve been trying to review more things, just because it’s good for the old brain. There’s plenty of words available on Bond at the moment, and this one wanders around a bit, but you might find it interesting.

Perhaps you can review Daniel Craig’s Bond films simply by looking at the theme songs.

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Frozen, Princess films, and the Disney Canon

Frozen theatrical poster, (c) Disney

A rather lengthy post because all my friends love Frozen and I have mixed feelings. Spoilers, probably.

I’m a big fan of Disney films. I’ve seen a lot of them (though thanks to primarily those ’40s compilation films, not all) and tend to have sussed out what I like and what I don’t. There’s been a lot of development over the 75 or so years since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but there’s definitely a thread from which you can split the good stuff from the less so. And while I reckon Frozen is good – it’s hilarious and enjoyable, and hopefully a sign of a continued resurgence in the general quality Walt Disney Animation Studios films – I don’t think it stands up to the best, and even pales in comparison with its most immediate predecessors.