Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

TV is black and white!

I can't stand issues movies, or indeed anything that can be described in one word. "It's about capital punishment". "It's about euthanasia". "It's about love". Ugh. I always get the feeling they decided to make a protest film, then tied their characters into contortions to come out with an unnatural, pleady movie to touch our lives and change our perspectives on the world. Do they care about making a good film with good characters, or is the message the most important thing?

That was sparked by the last two films I've seen - The Fisher King and Hairspray - both of which threw me absolute curveballs in the middle and turned out to be a One Word Film. In a good way - I enjoyed both, and I reckon it's because I didn't see The Obvious coming. Below I'll be talking about both. Hell, it's not as if I'm talking about major spoilers, any more than if I said "Four Weddings and a Funeral is a romantic comedy". An example. Have you seen Million Dollar Baby. Remember what happens at the end? Bet that one knocked you out...

Hairspray is an unashamed musical. Ever seen the Portabello Road bit in Mary Poppins when the entire street starts dancing? What with Chicago and Moulin Rouge redefining the musical as stylish and classy, I thought they'd forgotten how to do it. Hairspray is happy to let its characters dance and sing in public a la Grease.

Garn, you've got to love the Sixties. Primary colours, tailfins, racially segregated dancefloors...what a laugh. And this is where the plot suddenly hit me. From what I'd read, I assumed the film would focus on the overweight heroine's struggle against adversity. She wants to dance on TV, and I thought that would be the plot - learning you have to go for your dreams no matter what, fighting against the slim conformity, dealing with the other snobby dancing girls, and finally succeeding, at which point everyone suddenly becomes friends in time for a massive dance number and happy-happy ending. To begin with I was mostly right, although every now and then somebody would say something...a little off...racist comments stand out like sneezes in libraries. Initially I thought this was just engaging with time and place in quite a daring fashon (after all, letting the bitchy blonde pick on the overweight is horrible, but predictable, but letting her pick on black people is in a different league of uncomfortable altogether)

Curveball. The Corny Collins TV show isn't just sneering at Tracy because of her size; they've also lumped all their black performers into a once-a-week "negro day" show. By this point, however, I was having a wail of a time, bobbing along to the songs, wishing I knew the words, and beaming almost constantly, hardly noticing it sneaking up on me. Because it hadn't flashed it's true moralistic leanings about, it felt like it was a natural progression in the plot, not a charity advertisment. By that point, I really cared, instead of groaning and bashing my head against the seat in front.

I hate racism. I shouldn't have had to tell you that, as I hope you would have assumed it. And I have absolutely no interest in films about it, mainly because I have no sympathy with it. It's a bad film when your bad guy acts in an irrational manner. To me, persecuting people on account of their race is irrational, which always makes for unconvincing bad guys. I turned American History X off, for example, just because there was hardly anything in the film I could sympathise with. Incidentally, I feel exactly the same way about Bridget Jones' Diary. There was nothing in either film I could latch onto and share. I've never had relationship difficulties. I've never got the urge to firebomb someone's house just because they're not white. You could say I've never, say, been a member of the mafia, but there are a lot of universal emotions in [insert fave gangster movie here] which I can connect with - fear of death, loyalty, double crossing.

I avoid all issues films because they set out to make you feel uncomfortable first and foremost.
But the main reason I dodge them is because they always feel the need to be sooo serious. I'm not saying it's a laughing matter. I'm just not interested in spending two hours of my life feeling bad about myself and being lectured at the same time.

Hairspray is an absolute scream. The camp cheeriness, the innuendoes - even the songs contain some hilariously unexpected lines. Did I mention it was about racism? This is to its issue what Trainspotting was to drugs. "We're going to be discussing some serious issues later today, but first, we're going to party!"

There's a wonderful moment when our heroes are invited to a party in the ghetto by their new friends. Penny, nice girl with a strict Christian mother and cosseted upbringing, smiles on arriving and says politely, honestly and insanely cutely "I'm very honoured and scared to be here." Brilliant! And a perfect example of how this film's happy to risk comedy at the same time as making a point.

It's got real energy - the songs are unusually entertaining. It's easy to switch off during the songs in most musicals. These stay interesting - and there isn't a single reprise, which are always killers. Phantom of the Opera seems to reprise "Angel of Music" for much of the second half. Although it's also fair to say that this, like most musicals, would benefit from a song or two being chopped at the 3/4 mark (get rid of the song between Tracy's parents, and possibly another near it) The tunes are basically Grease-lite with a dash of the Supremes in places, but who cares. They're joyful, upbeat and fun. But not memorable: I came out humming "Stick to the Status Quo" from High School Musical and as I try to recall one to my mind, I can only think of Aretha Franklin's number from The Blues Brothers.

In fact, there's only one problem with this film, and it's a big one. Chrisopher Walken. The last thing I'd seen him in was True Romance, and boy he was scary. In fact, the last thing most people saw Christopher Walken in probably involved him being very scary. He's got that "turn on a whisper" talent you can never trust - he could go from a smile to a smile just like that. Even when he's trying to be genuinely nice in this, as Tracy's father, I couldt relax when he was on screen. Stick to slimy, scary characters, mate, because John Travolta was better at playing a woman than you were as a good guy...

Pity, really, because the rest of the supporting cast was great. Even Zac Efron (hated by everyone who dislikes High School Musical) has fun with his role as the self-centered girl magnet Link.

Recommended for fans of proper musicals in all their technicolour glory. Definitely don't watch if you're a cynic, white supremacist or are allergic to key changes. And no points at all go to our local cinema, who don't have disabled access to their upstairs cinema and, consequently, my sister-on-crutches had to go home.

After seeing Tideland last week, the favourite-director-pendulum swung resolutely away from M. Night back to Terry Gilliam where it belongs. The perfect time to watch The Fisher King, which I've had on video for a while now. I knew absolutely nothing about this. I had presumed it would be in Brazil-territory, with a fantasy Arthurian ledgend impinging on real life. I mean, it's Terry Gilliam. Expect the unexpected...I would review it here, but I feel a Gilliam director rant coming on, to match M. Night's, and consiquently I'd better sign off and get this posted quickly...

Final words - I have been to the cinema twice this week:

Harry Potter 5 -Very similar to Harry Potter 1, 2, 3 and 4
Hairspray - see above

and three times last week:

Die Hard 4 - My first Die Hard! It was fantastic, really great, which has made me pretty excited about the other three, which I have heard are better.
Ocean's 13 - very similar to Ocean's 11. I didn't see 12, but it didn't prevent my casual
Shrek 3 - very similar to Shrek 2. Empire was unfairly mean about 3 - the animation was amazing, there was some really amusing bits and a child a few seats down laughed almost constantly. That's a job well done. However...2 was a great sequel because it expanded the world. 3 only really uses the characters we've already got. Just an observation...

Me and my father were stranded in a hotel room in London with nothing better to do, and the last two were a mark of desperation - we didn't want to see Fantastic 4 II or Hostel II. Gee, it's all sequels at the moment!

And finally finally, Friend 4's brother has cleared out his DVD collection. Apparently, he only wants to keep his Star Trek DVDs, which resulted in a long distance phone call asking if I wanted any. Here's my new treasure hoard:
Die Hard
Die Hard 2
Die Hard with a Vengeance
The Guns of Navarone
The Heroes of Telemark
The Tuxedo
Enter the Dragon
A Man called Hero
Office Space
Monsters Inc.
Pitch Black
ooooh memory starting to fail me...
The Bulletproof Monk
Team America: World Police
there's another one, what was it...
ah yes. This is Spinal Tap.

That was scraped from his collection. Or rather, the collection that none of the rest of his family and friends wanted. Wowie. That'll keep me going for a while...and I'm thinking of having a Die Hard marathon.

Final comment, I promise! Two weeks ago, I dragged Friend 4 around to watch Legend of 1900 because I wanted to share the love. At the time I thought perhaps she'd actually enjoyed it more than I had. Within those two weeks, she has not only bought the DVD, but watched it twice more. Now this is Friend 4 we're talking about, and I'm telling you that's seriously unusual. Score!


Catherine said...

I saw Hairspray yesterday too, I loved it! I kind of knew some of the songs, which helped alot. Me and my sister were singing along to the bits we knew. Colourful, camp, funny and subversive with a big heart - what more do you want? I want to go see it again, actually.

Disagree with you about Walken though. Haven't you seen him in that Fat Boy Slim video? He's funky in that. And in Pulp Fiction his part is basically the lead up to one joke. And in, let's see, The Deer Hunter...oh, wait. :p

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