Friday Favourites: Albums

Friday Favourites, music

 

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You’ve probably seen that Bill Clinton Swag thing going around Instagram, right? You’ve probably even been tagged to do it. Well, yesterday some absolute bastard tagged me to do it. Now, I’m a very indecisive person. Although, I’m not actually sure I’d describe it as indecisive. I just don’t like the idea of ranking the things I like. Why should one thing be superior to the rest? It depends on the context. Why is everyone so obsessed with finding out what my favourite book or film is? I have loads. I love Goodfellas but it’s not the kind of film I’m going to want to watch all of the time. I love The Monk but it can be a bit much to read at times. That’s why we have collections. But I decided to try and play ball and it was going well until I was thrown another curve ball. Another friend made a point about everyone picking male artists and I realised I’d picked 4 albums by male artists. So, I went back to the drawing board to make it more even. But I still had too many to decide between. At least it gave me a Friday Favourites idea. I had to limit myself or I’d have been here forever but I think this is a pretty cool list.

Throwback Thirty – Oliver and Company (1988)

30 years, 30th birthday, animals, animated, animation, anniversary, bullshit, Dickens, Disney, dogs, film, film blogger, film blogging, film reviews, films, meh, music, musical, TBT

oliver_poster5_star_rating_system_2_stars I never saw Oliver and Company when I was a kid but I remember seeing the trailer for it whenever we watched a Disney film on VHS. Every time I saw it I wanted to watch it but it never happened. Probably because I’d get too distracted by whatever Disney film I was going to watch.  It always looked really fun and, as someone who loved dogs, I was obviously into the idea of Oliver Twist being remade with animals. I mean if The Lion King has taught us anything it’s that taking a piece of great literature and retelling it with animals is a great strategy for storytelling. I mean who’d even heard of Hamlet before Disney introduced us to Simba, right? Plus, there is a whole host of Disney films that prove that dogs and/or cats having adventures together is an instant winner. I’m not a big fan of Dickens anyway so I couldn’t imagine how it could get any worse by involving household pets.

TBT – Beauty and the Beast (1991)

animated, animation, childhood favourite, Disney, fucking beautiful, fucking funny, music, musical, rom-com, romance, TBT

I went to the cinema with a friend today and she happened to mention that she’d just seen the remake of Beauty and the Beast. When I asked her what she thought about it her answer was “I really liked it because it’s exactly the same.” Anyone who has read my review from Tuesday will know that, whilst I didn’t hate the film, I didn’t exactly feel blown away by the new film. Especially after we’d been promised such great things by its director, Bill Condon, and its star, Emma Watson. My issue with the film is exactly the reason that people love it so much. The reviews have been great because it is exactly the same as the film they love. The film took no risks and added nothing new to the narrative, except for a wife for Cogsworth and a husband for Mrs Potts. There’s been great feedback from audiences but it’s mostly because it just reminds them how good the original film is. It feels like cheating. Why would you want to watch an imitation when you can still watch the real thing? It’s like tribute bands to real bands that are still touring. Yeah, it’s fine in a pinch but you’d much rather see the real deal. So, for TBT this week, I did.

Beauty and the Beast is getting older now. It’s only 3 years younger than I am and I’m fucking old. However, saying that it’s old does not mean that it is in anyway inferior. You can tell that isn’t because the updated film is almost a shot-for-shot remake of the original animated film. Of course, for all of the nostalgic warmth that Emma Watson and co. may have been able to drum up, there can be no substitute for the real thing. No matter how dodgy the story at the heart of it is deep down. I mean, I know that Coke is really bad for me because of the sugar but that doesn’t mean I’m going to start drinking Diet Coke with it’s shitty tasting sweeteners, does it. There is so much charm within the ’90s animation that just couldn’t be replicated with a cavalcade of CGI household objects.

There’s a reason that Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to be nominated for an Oscar. It’s possible it could be because 1991 was a shitty year for films but, looking at the evidence, it’s more likely that it was because Beauty and the Beast is a fucking great film. It’s a triumph of animation, voice acting, and soundtrack. Everything comes together perfectly to create a truly magical experience that helped strengthen a new era in terms of Disney’s movies. Emma Watson may be desperately trying to convince us that her version of Belle is a super feminist but, the fact is, Belle kind of broke the Princess mould back in ’91. Yes, the story is all about love but Belle doesn’t spend all of her time mooning over a guy. She craves adventure and bravely steps into dangerous situations to save her family. She’s intelligent, creative and wants to make something of herself. She’s always been inspirational.

But, let’s be honest, the story itself isn’t what made this film so memorable. It’s a story about a girl meeting a guy and the story of how they fall in love. Just like every other Disney film. This film holds up because it is so incredibly well made. When we look back now and remember that, in another timeline, Beauty and the Beast could have been made as a non-musical it seems insane. The soundtrack, created by lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken, is pretty flawless. The compositions are rich and memorable, whilst the lyrics are funny, emotional and really clever. It helps that the voice actors give such solid performances. Angela Lansbury’s version of the title song can not be surpassed for the understated simplicity that makes is so romantic. I love Emma Thompson but she lacked something the ’91 version had oodles of.

It’s one of the reasons that ballroom scene is such an iconic moment in film history. The grandness of the animation next to Angela Lansbury’s almost timid performance is quite spectacular. To be honest, the song didn’t need to be something too extravagant because the visuals were so impressive. This was the first Disney film that used any digital assistance in its creation and it remains an impressive feat even to this day. The details on Belle’s dress as she twirls round the ballroom is still some of the best animation I’ve ever seen. The world of Beauty and the Beast is a classic cartooony Disney world but it was a revolutionary step into their golden age. This was film made by the best people that could be found and it has stood the test of time. Call me cynical or biased but it’s not something I expect to be saying about the latest version in 26 years time.

Tuesday’s Reviews – La La Land (2016)

Emma Stone, films, fucking beautiful, fucking sweet, music, musical, review, Ryan Gosling

After La La Land started being nominated and, subsequently, winning a shitload of awards there were plenty of articles suggesting that actors Emma Watson and Miles Teller were livid that they had turned down the chance to be in the film. But it’s just nonsense. The film has achieved such success because Emma Watson and Miles Teller didn’t end up playing the roles. No offence to either of them, and ignoring any rumours of them both being too demanding, but it’s surely the chemistry between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling that made the film. What is a love story without the love, after all? I know I’m not the biggest fan of Emma Watson as an actor anyway but you can’t pretend that La La Land wouldn’t have been a completely different film without it’s two stars. They can regret giving up on the role now that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are being recognised but who can honestly say that it would have received so many nominations with a different line-up? Nobody. It always strikes me as super bitchy when actor’s talk about giving up on a role. Like they’re just trying to take ownership of something that isn’t theirs and, probably, shouldn’t ever have been. If Emma Watson preferred to be auto-tuned in the remake of Beauty and the Beast instead of the being in this original piece of musical cinema then she has to accept that and let Emma Stone have her moment of glory. It’s just selfish bringing attention to yourself to try and overshadow someone else’s achievements.

If I’m honest, I wasn’t ever sure that I was going to see La La Land. I loved how quirky and retro it looked but I was also incredibly worried about how quirky and retro it looked. I mean I love oddities and quirks. I like to consider myself to be vaguely quirky but, have to admit, that it’s mostly wishful thinking and I’m probably fairly normal. What I do find annoying is quirk for quirk’s sake. You know weirdness that doesn’t belong or is misplaced. Like those super irritating girls who describe themselves as “random” because they like doing incredibly normal things. It’s the Zooey Deschanel thing. I’ve always loved her but found New Girl to be a step too far. As if she’s taken the image she’d created and then turned it up to 11 because that’s what she thought people liked about her. Or Noel Fielding. A guy who was beloved for his weird sense of humour on The Mighty Boosh but who went over the edge in his shitty solo offering Luxury Comedy.

When people go out of their way to highlight the things that make them different it can so easily slide into something that feels more like parody or farce. I worried that La La Land would go off the rails. It looked too good to be true so I was too scared to find out for sure. Thankfully, I was wrong and it’s exactly as good as it looks. It puts me in mind of so many classic films but, more importantly for awards season, also The Artist. Both films have taken inspiration from the Golden Age of Hollywood and have received critical acclaim and countless awards nominations. However, La La Land managed to do what The Artist wasn’t fully able to. It has won around audiences too. People may not be willing to accept a silent movie in the 21st century but they’re more than okay with people singing and dancing in the middle of LA.

Musicals are always going to be accessible and the story is so well-written that it’s impossible not to go along for the ride. The film charts the journey of it’s couple through the changes of the season starting and ending in Winter. We meet Mia (Emma Stone) a struggling actor who, between auditions, works at the coffee shop on the Warner Bros. lot. She has a couple of not so pleasant run-ins with wannabe Jazz pianist Seb (Ryan Gosling) before meeting him at a party. Seb, who has only ever been rude and brusque up to Mia at this point, is humiliated to be seen playing synth for a shitty electro outfit. Naturally, when the pair spend time together they come to realise that, despite her hatred of Jazz, they belong together. Their love is pure and childish and delightful to behold. However, the pair are also battling with ambition and must decide what is more important to them: their relationship or their dreams?

It might seem like an age old story that Hollywood has been tackling for year but La La Land keeps it fresh. It is the chemistry between the two actors that makes their love story so tender and sweet. Every part of the film comes together to create something that is truly beautiful and full of joy. The use of colour, the choreography, the music, and the characters are all so perfect. It is a story that so obviously fits into a contemporary setting thanks to observations regarding the Prius fad and YouTube. However, it is also a story that could fit into any time. It is a basic and honest story of two people caught between their dreams and their love. It’s heartbreaking and incredibly heartwarming in equal measures.

There have, of course, been comments regarding the suitability of the film’s stars in terms of musical performers. It’s to be expected but, really, is complete bollocks. Gosling and Stone aren’t the most seasoned of singers but they do an incredibly good job at holding a tune. If anything the lack of polish just makes their story seem more real and captivating. It’s as if, instead of contrived situations in which singers start singing in the street, we are seeing two people with emotions so strong and pure that they can’t help themselves. And the two actors do stupendous jobs in the roles that it would be a crime to have someone else play them so the songs sound better. Emma Stone is just perfect in this film. She is elegant, witty, charming, and slightly beaten down. She is exactly the type of star that Mia has revered all of her life and hopes to become. Ryan Gosling shows great depth here. Seb is someone who is so lost in the past that he is unwilling to accept anything new. He is holding back from himself and from Mia. Gosling plays Seb in a subtle and lovable way so the character never feels too alienating. He’s passionate instead of pretentious and intense. It’s no wonder these two are getting so much attention.

I’ve never been more glad that I ignored my initial thoughts about a film than I have with this. My first instincts told me I’d love this film and it is definitely one of the greatest things I’ve seen in a long time. I instantly wanted to re-watch it and I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on repeat. I realise, as the Oscars get closer, that people will criticise it for not seeming important enough to be put in the running for Best Picture. It’s true that La La Land isn’t trying to change the world or change people’s attitudes. It’s not giving a voice to people that don’t have one or trying to right wrongs. But, you know what, who gives a fuck? Things don’t always need to be important. Sometimes joy is enough of a reason. I can’t think of a single film that has given me as much sheer joy as this one in a long time. If that doesn’t make it a worthy nominee then I don’t know what does.