Film #286: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

creator: Walt Disney
language: English
length: 83 minutes
watched on: 28 April 2017

I think I watched this as a child, but it was so long ago I can’t remember it at all. Anyway, recently some of the less reputable shops in Japan have been selling old Disney movies for ¥80 a pop – it says on the sleeve that they’re now in the public domain. I suspect that this isn’t the case in America or the UK, but I don’t know. The knock-off DVDs are pretty low quality, though, of course. You can see the interlacing and it skipped a couple of times during the movie.

I kind of assume you all know what happens in this movie. I knew the basic story already, it’s just the details that have escaped me. I don’t really know what I expected from this period (compare with His Wedding Night (1917), for example), but the gender roles are ridiculously strong in this movie. Snow White controls everything around her with her beauty (the animals do her bidding when she sings), and her role in the dwarfs’ lives is to be a positive feminine force – she basically makes a deal to stay with them if she can do all their housework for them, and before she arrives, they’re slovenly, like college students. As for Prince Charming, I think he has a total of about two minutes’ screen time. Not quite enough to establish a romance, I’d have thought.

Things I liked included Dopey, basically a silent film character whose role is to provide slapstick humour, and the few sequences in the movie that were actually kind of scary, like when the dwarfs chase the witch away up a cliff during a thunderstorm. The dwarf characters are all established well and have distinctive characters, even when they have very little screentime – this is in direct contrast to movies (and indeed books) like The Hobbit. Over the course of that trilogy, I could only reliably distinguish about three of the dwarves by character, and I couldn’t remember any of their names.

It was also nice to hear the songs, although “Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, it’s off to work we go” is still the only one I actually know in any capacity. And I found the film funny, mostly. It’s nice to revisit things like this. I got two more ¥80 DVDs at the same time, so I will eventually watch and review those too. Watch this space, I guess.

How about you? What’s your favourite Disney movie?

Film #280: Drive (2011)

director: Nicholas Winding Refn
language: English
length: 96 minutes
watched on: 5 April 2017

I must admit, I always thought this movie would be more like The Fast and the Furious, a series I’ve never been interested in watching (although perhaps I’m missing out). Cars don’t generally do it for me. So I was surprised to see it actually bore a lot more resemblance to Tangerine, at least in that there are a lot of shots of driving around suburban Los Angeles.

Ryan Reynolds Gosling is the main character, a getaway driver who also does stunt work for the movies as his day job. Bryan Cranston (love of my life) is his unscrupulous boss. Ryan is morose, and a man of few words – he grunts and barely says anything throughout the movie, except for a spiel about his five minute getaway rule. He falls in love with his neighbour, whose husband is in prison. After the husband is out, there’s a tense relationship between them, but they seem to make friends and do a job together.

Basically, without wishing to spoil anything, the movie gets very violent very quickly and often suddenly. There are moments that I felt it went too far – Ryan’s character obviously has unresolved issues of some kind when he’s beating up bad guys, and it’s enough to show him staving a guy’s head in without then jump-cutting to the bloodied cadaver. We see enough without seeing everything.

The romance for me was also too boring – I’m not sure they even kiss. The director said this was some kind of Platonic ideal romance, or something. The Disneyishness of it contrasts too much with the ultra-violence.

But I liked the movie’s visual style, and its simplicity in composition and plot. There are a few good action sequences too. And I liked the music – I even looked some of it up to listen later. It’s definitely on the high end of the movie spectrum and has a lot going for it, even though I also think it goes too far with the gore and violence.

Film #263: Sing Street (2016)

singstreetdirector: John Carney
language: English
length: 106 minutes
watched on: 1 Feb 2017

Following a bit of a theme at the moment, I’m currently making my way through several movies I missed in the cinema last year (this follows The Jungle Book, Your Name, and a few others). I had a cold, and since Japan still has DVD rental stores, I went there instead of doing exercise, and Sing Street was plastered gaudily across the entrance as the latest release of that week. I also finally put my sofa to good use (I’ve had it for a few months, maybe since November), and the new wireless headphones my dad bought me for Christmas, and made a mini cinema setup in my room.

The movie is set in the 1980s (another theme I’ve noticed recently alongside things like Stranger Things is this 80s revival that seems to be happening), in Ireland. The economy is in freefall, and everyone is trying to get out – characters are constantly talking about going to London. The main character Conor’s parents are just realizing that they don’t want to be together anymore, and they have to take him out of private school and send him to the local public school. Then he starts a band to try and impress a girl, and the movie takes it from there. Basically all I knew before watching it was it’s an Irish musical film.

So first of all, the music in this movie is excellent, and I actually bought the soundtrack after watching the movie and still having the songs in my head for the next few days. The songs perfectly complement the story and the journey of the characters, and the kids who play the music are all very talented (a few of them are very much background characters of course). The visual style is equally important, as it’s the story of the pursuit of the perfect music video.

It’s a real old-fashioned feel-good movie – despite the rough situation economically and despite the homophobic and racist attitudes that are rife in the film, it’s still a very optimistic film. It blurs the line a lot between reality and the main character’s dreams and aspirations, never more obvious in the big setpiece scene where his imagination of what the music video should look like takes over, only to crash back to reality.

Like Departure, the scenes showing the parents’ divorce hit close to the bone, too. The movie has real heart but could be very raw with the emotion. Like Your Name, I was worried that the romance would be trite and hokey, but I was cheering them on by about halfway through when the romance kick starts properly.

It’s also a very funny movie – it produces laughs very easily. I was giggling at a lot of the lines, but not just that – as I mentioned, the movie in general has a good visual sense, and the director knows how to pull off a good visual or slapstick gag. I’m thinking in particular of the “cool” boyfriend having trouble driving his car, or the cut to the kids smoking in the shed moments after telling their mum that they never did such things.

It’s a small thing, but one thing I liked a lot was the teenagers in this movie are really teenagers. Especially the ginger kid who does all the filming – he looks really young, as do the main characters. When I was growing up, there was a strong tendency to put 20 year olds in teenage roles, especially in American movies, and I’m glad to see that movies have by and large moved away from that.

Another comedic moment was the disclaimer in the end credits – beyond the usual “this is fiction” disclaimer, there’s a note that says the real Synge Street school, where the film is mostly set, is, 30 years later, much more multicultural and a really accepting environment. The intolerant attitudes from the teachers and pupils in the film don’t make it come across well, of course.

I’m just sitting here writing it trying to think of a way to fault the movie. Too much homophobia, perhaps, but as in the disclaimer above, this is accurate to the era in which the movie is set. Perhaps I find it unrealistic that they get so good at music so quickly, but again, this is part of the whole thing the director is doing where it’s unclear where the music ends and where Conor’s imagination takes over. Everything seems to just… fit.

So yeah, I liked it. I think everyone should see it. What did you think?

Film #231: Young Adult (2011)

youngadultdirector: Jason Reitman
language: English
length: 94 minutes
watched on: 3 October 2016

This was another movie that we went into essentially blind. Charlize Theron, in a far cry from Mad Max, plays a down-on-her-luck ghost-writer in Minnesota. She returns to her small hometown to try and win back her high-school crush, who’s just had a baby with his wife.

First off, I didn’t believe the premise. Theron’s alcoholism and depression are believable and played well, but I didn’t believe that she would be honestly pining over the old flame in such a way – he was pretty bland.

Secondly, I didn’t really believe in her relationship with the other guy, that developed in a predictable and inevitable way over the course of the movie. I also saw it as wish fulfillment on the part of the creators and the actor, since she’s way more attractive than him.

At the same time, it wasn’t a complete waste of time, as there are some blackly comic scenes in there, and Theron’s character does get the kick up the bum that she needs to get back on the horse of her life, and I thought she made a very good performance in general.

The title’s pretty transparent, though. She’s a young adult writer, right, and get this!!! she’s got some growing up to do! I bet the writers were having orgasms over the double meaning there. Stop!

Anyone else seen this? What did you think?