I can probably count on my two hands the number of French films I’ve seen. I’m in no way an expert on French cinema, despite having a great appreciation for it. I’ve been to France twice, but only as a tourist. I don’t speak the language, and while I know more than the average American about French history I’m sure my knowledge pales in comparison to the average European. Basically, I have no authority to speak with any certainty on French culture, history, or cinema, with one exception: one of my all-time favorite films is French. Le Pacte des loups (in English: Brotherhood of the Wolf), is a bizarre, unique mash-up of period drama, monster movie, and martial arts action film, but it’s also intense, emotional, funny, sexy, and simply gorgeous to look at. And, above all, it feels like the sort of film that could only have been made in France.
We’ve almost reached the end of 2015, and it was a big year for movies. It’s been a year of long-awaited sequels, broken box office records, and some really fantastic movies. There was a lot to love from the movies in 2015, and a few things that weren’t quite so good, so here are my favorite and least favorite things from the world of cinema this year. I generally don’t do a “top 10 films” list, because I don’t get a chance to see everything, and many of the so-called “Oscar bait” films don’t get wide releases until after the year is over. Of course, the best part of 2015 at the movies was getting to interact with so many great people here on the blog, and on Twitter and Tumblr, but I lack the words to properly express my grattitude for you taking the time to read what I write, comment, and discuss movies with me. So instead I present my favorite (and least favorite) movie-related items from the year, comprised of films, characters, scenes, events, themes, and trends from 2015. And let’s hope 2016 is even better!
After years of having to deal with false Facebook posts, today is finally, for real, Back to the Future day. Today, October 21, 2015 (at 4:29pm) is the day when Marty McFly, Doc Brown, and Jennifer Parker arrive at the future in Back to the Future Part II. The Back to the Future series has long been one of my favorites, and I’m looking forward to seeing Part II on the big screen this evening for the first time. But while I’ve written about the first film previously on the blog, I’ve never taken a look at Part II before and today is as good a day as any. I’m sure Back to the Future will be all over the internet today, and most of the articles will focus on how 2015 looked to those in 1985 (which is always the fun of time travel movies), I’d rather look at the film itself, its place in the story, and how it ties into and enhances the themes of the series.
It might be an understatement to say that I didn’t enjoy Jurassic World. I found it alternately boring and infuriating, a wasted opportunity. Despite that, it’s the one movie that I’ve thought the most about in the past few weeks. Partly it’s been hard to ignore, given its monumental box office run, but there’s something more to it than that. As much as I disliked it, I can’t shake the feeling that there might actually be more to the movie than I gave it credit for. I don’t mean to imply that Jurassic World is secretly great, because it’s not, but watching it I had the sneaking suspicion that writer/director Colin Trevorrow might have had a not-so-hidden message he embedded in the film through certain characters, scenes, and especially its climax. You see, I’ve never encountered a film that seems to hate itself more thanJurassic World.
(Caution: Spoilers Ahead!)
I’m an optimist. I always have been, even through the roughest patches of my life. But being an optimist is hard work, and is often ridiculed. Today, movies filled with darkness and despair are seen as more “real,” while optimistic movies are ridiculed as being juvenile or unrealistic, and happy endings are easily dismissed by many. So by all accounts,Tomorrowland shouldn’t exist. Big motion picture companies don’t spend $190 million on an original science fiction film about how hope and the mere act of not giving up can save the world. And, unfortunately, judging by the film’s mediocre results at the box office they probably won’t again in the near future. But to continue on the path we’re currently following would be, as Casey Newton would put it, “feeding the wrong wolf.”
Cinderella has generally received good reviews (currently at 84% on Rotten Tomatoes), but it’s had its fair share of detractors, particularly when it comes to how the film relates to feminism. I consider myself a feminist, as equality for women is one of my core beliefs and goals, so I’ve found myself in the week after seeing Cinderella asking a question: “Is there a feminist interpretation of Cinderella?” Many people probably already have an answer to that question, formed without having seen the movie. Some will answer, “No, of course there isn’t,” as everyone knows the story and most of us have seen the 1950 Disney animated version and can base an opinion from that. Others will answer, “Who cares?” either because they’re not interested in feminism, or they actually dislike feminist ideas entirely. This article isn’t for them, but it’s for people like me, who passionately support feminism but who also loved Cinderella. The question is whether we can reconcile these two, seemingly mutually exclusive, views.
(Note: This is a fictional creative thinking exercise, inspired by hours of contemplation of which animated performances have been most worthy of attention over the years. This feature imagines that a Best Voice Performance category was added to the Oscars following Beauty and the Beast’s nomination for Best Picture at the 64th Academy Awards. I’ll cover the hypothetical nominees and winner from one year of animated performances.)
Enthusiasm for voice acting was high following the 78th Academy Awards, which presented the most diverse slate of nominees the category had ever seen, ending in a win for a widely respected performer on his third nomination. The return of Pixar to the fray with Cars, starring 10-time Oscar nominee Paul Newman helped lend some star power and prestige to the race, while two roles in the same film from Robin Williams assured his presence in any debate about potential nominees. However with every two steps forward comes another step backwards, and when the nominees were announced they were met with a combination of shock, confusion, and in some cases outrage and the bizarre choices, once again bringing the category’s very existence into question.
It was officially announced last week that Emma Watson will be playing Belle in an upcoming live-action film adaptation of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. It will be a musical using Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s songs from the animated film (and presumably from the stage version), will be directed by Bill Condon, and is due for release sometime next year. The film was actually announced last summer, but it didn’t really feel real until it had some casting to go along with it. I personally couldn’t be more thrilled about Emma Watson as Belle. I think she’ll bring the right amount of brains and attitude to the Disney Princess role, and I have little doubt that they can get her singing skills up to scratch. But with the film more a reality now than it was two weeks ago, it’s the perfect time to play casting director and fill out the other major roles in the film. Read on for some of my ideas (which may not be particularly original), and then leave a comment to let me know who you’d like to see singing alongside Emma Watson next year.
2014 has come and gone, and while there were some definite highlights to the year of movies, overall I’d say it was a bit disappointing compared to years past. There were some movies that I really loved, but I wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic in 2014 as I usually am for the world of cinema. However, things are looking up for 2015, with a lot to be excited about, plus there are still a few movies I need to catch up on from 2014 that I either missed or haven’t gotten around to (Big Eyes, Selma, The Imitation Game, etc.). But now that 2015 is underway it’s time to take a look back at the highs and lows of 2014 at the movies. Instead of a traditional top 10 list of movies, I like to list out my favorite cinema-related things from the year. Some of them are movies, but others might be scenes, characters, moments, or even just announcements. So without further ado, here are my top 10 and bottom 3 of 2014 at the movies.
I rarely pay much attention to those around me in a movie theater. We all have experienced a myriad of awful behavior from both adults and children, and it’s driven some people to stay home and simply watch movies on Netflix (or pirate them), but I’ve mostly learned to tune them out. There are exceptions, when I want to see how people react to a particular moment in a film I’ve seen before, but mostly I ignore people rudely talking or checking their cell phones and such. However, I started to notice an interesting trend during Into the Woods that brought a lot of questions to my mind, particularly as it pertains to the state of musical films in today’s pop culture landscape. And it all made me wonder whether movie musicals will ever be popular enough again to have a regular place at the table of major film genres, and why, exactly, people stopped loving musicals.