Another week down and another 30 year-old film to discuss. I’d not seen Bull Durham before because, quite frankly, when something is described as a mixture of romantic-comedy and sports film then I’ll just assume it’s not for me. I don’t have the best history with sports film because I really can’t give a shit about sports. Sure when the Summer Olympics is on I might watch a few of the more exciting events but I can honestly think of better things to do with my time. I’m of the opinion that if you like a sport that much then you’d be better off playing it than sitting in front of a TV watching it. But I’m also the kind of person who finds board games to be edge of your seat excitement. So, I don’t exactly go out of my way to watch a sports film unless there’s another reason to enjoy it. Sure, when I was younger, I was obsessed with the film Little Giants but that was only because it came in a 3 film VHS set along with Richie Rich and Dennis. Still, just like my beloved Mighty Ducks trilogy, it’s an incredibly silly film that happens to be about sport. Not exactly up there. The closest I’ve come is The Damned United; a film that I only watched because I’m completely in love with Michael Sheen and his face. Ask me anything about football and I’d draw a blank. So, I couldn’t exactly say I was looking forward to Bull Durham but I also figured that it was about time that I watched it.
There’s a thing with Christmas movies that mean the expectations regarding quality shift. I mean there’s got to be a reason so many people love the film Love Actually when it is, clearly, the worst thing ever made. I mean it’s a horrible mix of plots that are offensive and irritating and really not very romantic. I have a complicated enough relationship with Richard Curtis without this affront being played a million times every December. But there is a genre of Christmas films that really scrape the bottom of the barrel. The kind of unoriginal TV movies that are churned out in amazing quantities by the likes of Hallmark. And, apparently, Netflix have been trying to get in on the act. Last week I reviewed the film that the Christmas film of 2017: Netflix’s original A Christmas Prince. I watched it and, to my surprise, didn’t totally hate it. I mean I mostly did but I still found some festive pleasure watching it. Still, I was happily done with the “genre” until I was shown the trailer for Netflix’s second big holiday production: Christmas Inheritance. I’m starting to worry about the inevitable increase in the number of recommendations I’ll get from the age 12-14 film category because of these films. Ah, what the heck, my recommendations are already pretty fucked up thanks to all of the 90s gross-out comedies that I’ve watched.
Whilst it might seem that A Christmas Prince and Christmas Inheritance have a lot in common that simply isn’t true. Both feature a female as their protagonist but these protagonists are very different. One is a terrible journalist whilst the other is a terrible CEO. Oh my god, so different! In the latest film, Ellie (Eliza Taylor) is the daughter to the CEO of a fairly twee and family orientated gift company. She expects to take over from her father, Jim, some day but she is more preoccupied with partying to care about the traditions that her father and his business partner started so many years ago. In order to push Ellie into learning more about the company’s values, Jim sends her to the small town where everything all started. She has to go undercover and with only $100 to her name. Yeah, it doesn’t really make sense but it is the only thing that drives this film forward so I’ll go with it. Unluckily for Ellie, Snow Falls is in the middle of nowhere with no amenities and very few ways to contact the outside world. Can she get over her New York ways and prove she deserves to run the company?
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Christmas film without the added touch of romance. Whilst Ellie is engaged to an obvious wrong-un from New York, she finds herself drawn to literally the first (and seemingly only) young man she meets in town. He runs the inn owned by her father business partner and has no time for her big city bullshit. Until he finally starts to see the kind heart that she hides underneath, of course. This is standard rom-com fair: high maintenance girl sent out to hicksville and getting her hands dirty before falling in love with the local dishy Samaritan. But this is different because… it’s Christmas? Obviously, he eventually finds out she’s been lying about who she is and, suffering from his own inner demons, our flannel wearing hero turns his back on the rich young thing.
I’ll be honest with you, I thought after my reaction to A Christmas Prince that I would react more favourably to this film. I didn’t. Just like their previous offering, Netflix’s new film is a mash-up of so many romantic-comedies that have come before it. This time it manages to be as unfunny, inexplicable and unoriginal as A Christmas Prince whilst also giving us a heavy dose of its patronising attitude towards simple rural folk. There is always going to be problem with the conceit of a young rich girl going back to her roots: it always has to imply that there is something so twee and magical about small town living. It forces us to believe that these folks are so backwards that their good nature and kind hearts are an unusual thing. It’s fucking annoying. Snow Falls is the manic pixie dream girl of small towns. An unrealistic place that manages to show the main character who she is and who she needs to be thanks to its endless parade of outdated stereotype characters.
I also found Christmas Inheritance’s inevitability much more annoying. I kind of accepted that A Christmas Prince was going to be exactly the kind of film I thought it was going to be and found it funny to second-guess the plot. Here it seems much less acceptable. Maybe it’s because this film tries to ground itself closer to reality or because it takes itself more seriously? I don’t know. What I do know is that I was much angrier when I was shouting the future plot strands at the screen this time around. In reality, Christmas Inheritance is no worse a film than A Christmas Prince but, if you were to really push me, I’d definitely pick the latter to watch. But it’s entirely possible I never got over my childhood dream to become a princess one day and it’s affecting my life’s choices.
You gotta love Netflix. I mean the platform has revolutionised how we all consume television and film. It’s made our lives all so much easier for such a small price. I’m waiting for the day they get their own version of the cinema where you can pay to watch current film releases from the comfort of you own home for a small fee. But until that day Netflix is on hand to provide its own original programming. Let’s be honest, what with Stranger Things and everything Marvel related, the site is nailing the television element. Although, they haven’t exactly found their niche when it comes to films. They’ve done some great things and some truly horrendous things. Something that it is more than willing to admit. Yesterday, 11th December, the twitter account tweeted the following:
To the 53 people who’ve watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?
You gotta admit that that’s a bold move on behalf of their social media person. Not only are they openly calling their newest Christmas release shit but they’re making it seem as though they use their stats to mock their members. I know that, supposedly, there’s no such thing as bad publicity but this might be one of the exceptions. This tweet didn’t really get me thinking about Netflix and their use of my viewing data. I assumed they’d be doing all sorts of shit with that anyway. No, it got me thinking, just how bad is A Christmas Prince?
If, like me, you’re more obsessed with Buzzfeed than you should be, then you’ll have been seeing stuff about A Christmas Prince for ages now. It’s one of those films that appeared on my Netflix home page and I just ignored it. I mean I bloody love Christmas films but it wasn’t going to be top of my viewing list any time soon. Maybe if you’d taken it back to the 90s/early 2000s and cast Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray in the main roles I’d be all over that shit. Now? With that cast? I wasn’t in any rush to see it. But, if I’m being very honest, I did assume I’d watch it. Most probably on Christmas Eve after an awful day at work when I couldn’t focus on anything else.
Anyway, considering the massive hype I’d seen surrounding the film and needing to write something for this blog, I decided it was finally time to sit down and watch it. I mean it’s only about 90 minutes long and it was hardly going to be too taxing for me. It’s classic teen girl romantic comedy. You could take out a checklist and tick everything of because it’s all there: girl struggling to make as a writer; handsome Prince; sick younger sibling; strict mother; bitchy romantic competition; and an evil cousin. It’s also got a Christmas tree in basically every scene just because you can’t ever forget that he’s not just a Prince: he’s a Christmas Prince.
This film is a mash-up of so many shitty romantic comedies. A young wannabe writer gets the chance of a lifetime to write a story on the complicated situation with the royal family of Aldovia (a generic European country where everyone speaks with a British accent and everything is twee and old-fashioned). The King is dead but his heir, Prince Richard, wants to relinquish his hold on the throne. Rumour has it the young prince is too much of a playboy to bother with ruling over his people so our heroine, Amber, must find out what’s going on. Unfortunately, she is mistaken for the tutor brought in to teach Richard’s young sister, Emily, who suffers for spina bifida. Amber decides to keep up with the charade in order to find her story.
I don’t really need to spell out what happens next do I? It’s all so basic and unoriginal that it’s as if Netflix wrote this using a teen romance algorithm. You know that episode of South Park where the kids discover that family guy is written by manatees choosing balls at random? I imagine a similar situation except with Christmas Elves opening crackers or some other festive shit. There’s no real attempt to make this film funny, good, or original. So much of this is frustratingly bad and doesn’t make sense. I don’t understand the motivations of anyone. The mood and character of everyone changes in the blink of an eye to help move the plot along. The main character is an awful manic pixie dream girl type who definitely wouldn’t be trusted to write this kind of story. And, finally, at the end of the film she starts a new blog, writes one post and gets 20,000 views in 3 days. I mean that’s fucking nonsense.
Except, despite hating so much about this film I didn’t exactly hate it. There’s something addictive about such terrible stuff. I hate everything about the film Mama Mia but have the urge to watch it occasionally. For the past two days, a friend at work and I have been constantly quoting Tommy Wisseau from The Room because it’s so fucking funny. Most bad films (like Geostorm) are so bad that they’re just bad. Occasionally. though, bad film will come along that makes your heart soar because of how bad it is. You almost become proud that it was even made. It’s like rooting for the underdog. This is the film equivalent of Eddie the Eagle or something. You know it’s got no substance but you can’t stop yourself cheering for it… and isn’t that what Christmas is really about? It’s not but who cares?
I’m not going to lie to you guys, my schedule has gone a little awry this week. I didn’t watch anything for today’s post yesterday as I intended so had to quickly find something appropriate whilst browsing Netflix as soon as I got home from work. It’s the end of my working week so I’m pretty tired and just picked the first film that seemed like an easy watch. It certainly doesn’t link to my review of 6 Days from earlier this week. I do prefer it when there seems to be some method to my madness but that definitely isn’t the case. However, I’m a consummate professional so should be able to come up with a logical reason if you’ll give me a moments thought. Ahem. I opened Tuesday’s post talking about how Jamie Bell will always be Billy Elliot in my eyes, which links to the star of today’s film I guess. To me and most people in the world, Hugh Grant is, and forever will be, the bumbling, floppy haired idiot who starred in loads of Richard Curtis romantic comedies. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to take him seriously in anything and have just come to believe that any Hugh Grant film I see will basically just be Notting Hill 2 or something. Which is fine, I guess, as I don’t exactly go rushing out to see Hugh Grant movies any more. This isn’t the 90s for fuck’s sake. However, it is late on a Thursday night and, having to be up early to get shit done tomorrow, Notting Hill seemed like a fairly adequate choice for my viewing pleasure. It’s actually been ages since I saw it.
I pride myself on my dislike of romantic-comedies. It’s not that I think they’re inherently bad films or that I’m too much of cynic to enjoy them. Contrary to popular belief, my heart isn’t made of stone and I’m a sucker for a good love story every now and then. The key word being, of course, a “good” love story. I find most rom-coms that I’ve ever seen to be annoyingly unrealistic and just far too predictable. Every single meet-cute that you see on screen is absolutely absurd and, were they to happen in real life, would in no way lead to anyone falling in love. The romantic-comedy is just a massive cliche based around the basic premise of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy desperately tries to win girl back with massive romantic gesture. It’s up to the individual writer to fill in the remaining time with any number of awful coincidences and stupid misunderstandings that keep the pair apart for as long as possible. After all, we’ve got to amp up that emotional drama level.
As rom-coms go, Notting Hill has a a pretty long running time so there are plenty of chances to keep the two potential lovers from getting together. Is it too long a film? Definitely. Does it matter? To be honest, you don’t really feel the drag too much because this film exists in such a pleasant bubble that you can’t help but get dragged in. The London of Richard Curtis’ Notting Hill is that twee and cutesy version of England where everyone lives by the “Keep calm and carry on” system and, when things get bad, sticks the kettle on and opens some biscuits. This isn’t real London by any stretch of the imagination. The cast of characters is part of that increasingly eccentric breed of British people that exists in Hollywood to cover up the fact that, in reality, British people are just a bunch of dickheads. Notting Hill isn’t just a romantic-comedy; it’s a fucking fairy tale.
The unbelievable narrative sees travel book shop owner Will Thacker (Hugh Grant) meet mega Hollywood starlet Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) when she decides to browse his shop for a book about Turkey (obviously). When he accidentally spills orange juice on her, the actress agrees to go into this perfect strangers house to change and gets about a course of events that sees Will fraudulently claim to be a member of the press, chase Anna across London and, basically, make a huge tit of himself every chance he gets. There’s a lot of guff about real people falling in love with a celebrity and the intrusion of the press but, when it comes down to it, Notting Hill is like any other Curtis rom-com.
However, after watching it again I am annoyed to say that I kind of enjoyed it. I mean it’s as predictable and silly as any film of this genre but there is something quite nice about it. Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts are both good in their roles and you can’t help but want this two attractive bastards to just make it work. Will’s group of weirdo, outcast friends seem like a super nice bunch of people who, despite never being able to exist in real life, add a great layer of humour and heart to the main narrative. The film does experience an obvious dip in quality as it goes along but not so much that it drags along. The opening is funny and kind of heartwarming in its own way and the first press junket scene is still a joy to watch.
Despite a few misguided attempts to make a point about journalism and privacy, this isn’t a serious or clever film. It doesn’t need to be. It’s just the story of a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her. And, despite my hard, hard heart, that’s fucking adorable.
I was sorely tempted to put off this TBT post and do it tomorrow. Today was the General Election and, as I was working from 9 until 630, I decided to go before I set off this morning. That’s fine in principal but, as always happens on such occasions, I got caught in a YouTube cycle last night and went to bed far too late. I’ve been walking around like a zombie for most of the day because of the lack of sleep. I managed quite well but there was a point this morning when I dropped pretty much everything that I picked up. Something that would be quite funny were I part of the circus or in some kind of farce but less useful in a kitchen setting. Still, I am determined to finish this tonight and get to bed, relatively, early. I’d love to stay up and wait for the results to roll in but, as vital as that seemed back in my early twenties, now I’m nearly 30 it seems utterly stupid. Especially when I’m starting work at 7 tomorrow morning. I don’t have time for that… Dimbledore or no Dimbledore.
When The Versions of Us first came out pretty much every article and review about it referenced Sliding Doors. I’m not saying it doesn’t make sense but it always felt like kind of an obvious comparison. It’s as inevitable as the moment when anything that is set in space is compared to Star Wars. Yes, both are about the concept of different timelines and the importance of one moment on your future but that doesn’t mean they are obvious partners. Still, if was good enough for those guys then I feel like it’s fair to talk about that 1998 romantic-comedy for today’s TBT post. It helps that I have a bit of soft spot for the film thanks to my undying love of John Hannah. He’s lovely and Scottish. And he’s made more than enough terrible films better just by being on screen. Okay I’m mainly talking about this one, The Mummy series and Four Weddings and a Funeral but I’m sure there’s more I haven’t seen.
When it comes to Sliding Doors I have 2 strong memories of the film. Number 1: a very good friend of mine absolutely loves this film so I’ve always felt the need to bite my tongue about it. Number 2: Gwyneth Paltrow is made to say the word “shagging” over and over again in order to convince people she’s British. More than anything else, I think it’s the use of the word “shagging” that really pisses me off about Sliding Doors. It’s one of those awful British stereotypes that Americans have but, in actuality, is a stark contrast to the way people speak. Of course, it could be a 90s thing; I was only 10 when this film first came out. Although, I’m still fairly certain people didn’t use the word “shag” in the many varied contexts that Gwyneth Paltrow does.
Anyway, it’s hardly the most important thing about the film. That is the gimmick that we see the two difference paths that Paltrow’s PR Exec, Helen, could take depending on whether she does or doesn’t make it onto The Tube on time. As gimmicks go it’s pretty interesting and it is quite fun to see the two versions of Helen lives play out alongside the other. In the first, she makes the train and gets home to discover her boyfriend cheating on her. This pushes her into the path of the charming and silly, James (John Hannah), who encourages Helen to move on with her life and pursue her dreams. In the second, Helen doesn’t find out and lives in blissful ignorance whilst bankrolling her boyfriend’s infidelity working two jobs.
You see, Sliding Doors, above all else, is a fairly bland romantic-comedy with a gimmick that raises it above the rest but that only succeeds because of its cast. It is an imaginative take on a tired genre but there still isn’t a great deal of creativity. A woman leaves her cheating man and gets a new haircut in one strand whilst she remains dowdy and brunette in the other. This doesn’t try and use the premise for anything interesting or deep. It’s literally just about which man she ends up with. It’s a rather shallow narrative that is able to hide behind its charming cast and feel like a much better film. Really, as I’ve always sort of suspected, it’s nothing I should waste time with. It’s a shagging travesty.
When it comes to romantic comedies I can’t say that I’m a huge fan. I’m much too cynical and, if we’re being honest, it’s all been done a thousand times before. Boy meets girl. Boy tries to make girl fall in love with him. Stuff happens. Happily ever after. I just never find it an incredibly inspiring to sit down and watch them so I avoid them. However, if ever there was going to be a writer who could change my mind about the whole concept it would be Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is the much loved fantasy, horror, science fiction, anything else you can think of writer who has penned such notable works as The Sandman comic book series as well as numerous novels and short story collections. Stardust is, in a way, Gaiman’s own The Princess Bride (incidentally, this is one of the few romantic comedies that I genuinely adore). Now, I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman’s writing and I would recommend his books to anyone. His writing is like magic. There’s nobody quite like him. Yet, I’ve never really been a massive fan of any adaptations of his work. Well, that’s not quite true. I like them but I can’t say I love them. I could read and reread Gaiman’s work any number of times but I don’t think I’d ever watch one his films or TV shows more than once. Except maybe Coraline because that was fucking awesome. There’s something that just gets lost in translation and I don’t have that same connection with them. It’s why I never rewatched this film until I needed something to review for today… and it’s why I’m in no real rush to watch it again.
We’re all pretty familiar with swashbuckling romances, right? A handsome young man goes off on an adventure to win his fair maidens heart and must overcome all the obstacles in his way. Stardust follows that basic plot but gives it a decidedly Neil Gaiman spin. The plot, adapted from Gaiman’s original novel, follows Tristan Thorne (Charlie Cox) a resident in a quiet little village called Wall.The village has been named for the stonewall than runs along it that, legend tells, separates merry old England from the magical realm of Stormhold. Tristan has fallen in love with the beautiful but selfish Victoria (Sienna Miller) but is about to lose her to his rival Humphrey. Until, after spotting a shooting star in the sky, Tristan promises to bring his love the fallen star in exchange for her hand. Unfortunately, this means a trip beyond the wall and into the unknown.
It also turns out to be rather difficult as the star has turned into a stubborn and sassy young woman, Yvaine (Claire Danes) and Tristan has a hard time persuading her to come with him. Then you have the added problem of a trio of witches, headed up by the vicious Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), who want to track down the girl, eat her heart and receive immortality. Finally, as if that weren’t enough, Yvaine has taken possession of a ruby that belonged to the recently deceased King of Stormhold (Peter O’Toole) who has declared that the first of his make heirs to find the stone will be the next rightful ruler of the land. All parties end up chasing down the hapless pair as they slowly make their way back to Wall before Victoria’s birthday.
That’s the main problem with Stardust really. There is a lot going on and it all gets a bit haphazard on screen. The plot manages to stay fairly faithful to the book but, in a desire to manage this, everything moves quite quickly. It gets pretty confusing and there are some liberties that are taken to ensure that some sort of narrative structure exists. Things don’t naturally fit into place and there are several awkward moments that are intended for the sole purpose of holding things together. It’s a tad messy and could easily have been fixed with a bit of careful editing.
There are plenty of star studded cameos throughout the film with supporting characters popping up to play their small part in Tristan and Yvaine’s epic journey. It is an inspired cast but some of these moments just feel unnecessary or uncomfortable. By far the best and the worst is Robert DeNiro as Captain Shakespeare, the man in charge of an airship that farms lightening. Though he has the reputation of a fearsome pirate, Captain Shakespeare is a campy relic that should have been left in the 70s. As fun as DeNiro is in the role his performance just feels a bit like an outdated relic.
Aside from that we have turns from fantastic British comedians and comedy actors which work in varying degrees. The ghosts of the the Kings dead sons, all of whom have fallen in the family tradition of brother killing brother in the race for succession, just about work as they hang around like Hamlet Snr. and weigh in on their siblings failures. Ricky Gervais’ time on screen just seems like a desperate attempt to let him be the same character he always plays. I could have done without it. Ultimately, it feels as though the sheer number of famous faces is a bit of a gimmick and it just adds to the already complicated nature of the film.
It tries desperately to let the narrative survive but it comes at the expense of good storytelling. There are obvious comparisons to The Princess Bride and the work of Terry Gilliam but Stardust neither has the original of Gilliam nor the heart and soul of Rob Reiner’s great romantic adventure. Stardust is a sweet and perfectly enjoyable film. There are some great moments and, thanks to Pfeiffer and Mark Strong, couple of incredible villains to amp up the tension. However, it loses itself in the scope of what it is trying to achieve. It’s trying to be a bit of every genre it can think of and it tries to flit between drama and comedy without any real thought. It’s silly but neither it’s not quite silly enough. It’s scary but not quite scary enough. It’s romantic but not quite romantic enough… oh, you get the idea. It’s not a bad film. It’s just not a great one either. I mean, it’s not a great sign when the thing I love most about this film is the Take That song that plays over the credits.
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.
I’ve never really been a massive fan of Kevin Smith films. When I was at university I lived with a guy who loved him and wouldn’t hear a bad word said about the director. I mean Clerks is a silly but enjoyable enough watch and I did enjoy Dogma. However, I think Smith was severely overrated. Thankfully Smith-mania really peaked in the 90s and early 2000s but it still bugs me that Clerks is so often brought into discussions about “best films ever made”. I mean I get that guy can make films out of small budgets but that’s no reason to give him so much credit. He got lucky with one suprise hit film and has been essentially riding it’s coattails ever since. I mean all his films are on pretty much the same level. Plus, he’s very hit and miss. Now, I realise that Ben Affleck has, for most of his career, made some questionable film choices but it always makes me a bit sad that Kevin Smith features so often in talks about Afflecks greatest film roles. I think Chasing Amy is almost always listed and Dogma makes the occasional appearance. Am I just missing something? Or were people just a lot easier to please in the 90s?
Chasing Amy is considered to be Kevin Smith’s greatest films after his debut film, Clerks. It was Ben Affleck’s second time in the director’s cast after the disappointing Mallrats. Affleck plays Holden McNeil, a comic book artist who works with his friend and roommate, Banky Edwards (Jason Lee). The two co-create the popular series Bluntman and Chronic based on their associates Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith). At a comic book convention the pair are introduced to Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams) and, after spending the evening at a bar together, Holden decides he and Alyssa have a deep connection. The only trouble is, Alyssa is a lesbian. Obviously, as this is Hollywood, that doesn’t matter for long and Alyssa enters into a romantic relationship with Holden. Until Banky uncovers some secrets from her past that she lied to Holden about. When faced with the truth about his girlfriend’s sexual history, the artist lashes out and risks losing the woman he loves.
The worst thing about Chasing Amy is that I can see what Kevin Smith was going for here. He was trying to make a film about sexual identity and how other people view it. I think he was genuinely trying to convey a meanginful and important message about a person’s past can lead them to be who they are now. Alyssa has a reputation for being a promiscuous teenager and, whilst her boyfriend cannot handle it, she is unashamed of it. She understands that it is not who she is now but realises that it was something she needed to do to get to where she is now. It should be empowering but it just kind of feels a bit off. As an audience we aren’t supposed to agree with Holden’s attitude but the positive message is so wrapped up in awful stereotypes and homophobic jokes that you can’t take it seriously.
The relationship between Holden and Alyssa comes out of the fact that he has very little idea or respect for the concept of lesbian sex. He doesn’t think that anything other than heterosexual sex really counts so, in this respect, he see her as a pure, untouched being. Until he finds out that she has been touched by more than her fair share of dudes. It is then that he starts to see her for as flawed and worries about her increased experience. Which is fine if you have a meaningful resolution where Holden realises he’s an ass, apologies to Alyssa and they move beyond it. That doesn’t happen. Holden realises he’s an ass and then becomes an even bigger ass to compensate. There is never a point where he accept responsibility and accepts that Alyssa’s past is her business. Aside from her one speech towards the end of the film, this is more about Holden’s reaction to events. It’s about how sad the end of the relationship makes him. He broods on his own whilst Alyssa goes off with the first chick she can find. The ending doesn’t empower her; it just confirms everything that Holden was saying about her.
I’ve not seen Chasing Amy for a really long time so it was weird going back to it now that it’s 20 years old. I’m one of those people that still feel like the 90s was only 10 years ago so this revelation alone was enough to give me the willies. Then you have the representation of sexuality and opinions on display, which just make me feel uneasy now. The 90s was a long time ago and gender politics and sexual identity have come a long way since then. Watching this in 2017 is how I imagine it was in for people in the 90s to rewatch all those racist and sexist sitcoms from the 70s. It’s funny, sure, but the general message is a little bit worrying. It feels like the most sensitive and kind-hearted film that Kevin Smith is ever likely to make but there is still so much about this film that just doesn’t carry over to 2017. This bro-humour is at odds with the messages he is trying to convey and the half-hearted attempt to turn Banky and Holden’s homosocial relationship into an awkward homosexual one. It just doesn’t work and Lee and Affleck are both clearly uncomfortable with the idea. Ultimately, there was a time and a place for Kevin Smith’s film and that time just isn’t now. I’m glad he’s not really a thing anymore.
It’s been a few days since I watched La La Land and I’m still obsessed. I’ve been singing that bloody “City of Stars” song non-stop and listening to the soundtrack on my way to work. I’ve shocked a lot of the people I work with by enjoying the film. I guess because I’m such a seemingly heartless and cynical person. I mean I am a cynical person but I get swept away with a good love story as much as the next person. I say this as someone who, admittedly in a state of exhaustion after 3 days back at work, was crying at footage of Kiss Cams earlier tonight. Yep, I am, underneath it all, just as sentimental and lovey dovey as the rest of the world. And Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s romance in the film is made more adorable thanks to their fantastic chemistry. This is their 3rd film together so they’ve clearly become quite comfortable. So, in order to keep this feeling going, I decided to go back to where it all started way back in 2011.
Crazy, Stupid, Love is the romantic comedy about a recently divorced man (Steve Carrell) trying to get back his masculinity with the help of a Lothario he meets in a bar (Ryan Gosling). Cal Weaver is caught off guard when his highschool sweetheart, Emily (Julianne Moore), tells him she wants a divorce after she slept with her coworker, David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon). He moves out of the family home and starts frequenting a bar where he tells anyone who will listen about this infidelity. Unable to allow Cal to wallow in self-pity any longer, womaniser Jacob (Ryan Gosling) takes pity on him and offers to help him get his life back on track. With an updated wardrobe and new techniques for talking to women, Cal discovers a new side to dating and becomes a new man. His new lifestyle only reiterates his love for wife, however, and Cal must attempt to win her back. Meanwhile, Jacob’s wild lifestyle stalls when he meets Hannah (Emma Stone) a law student who rejects his advances. Finally getting bored of her dull boyfriend, Hannah tracks Jacob down to accept his offer. Things don’t go to plan and the pair end up bonding and eventually start dating.
Then, because it’s a romantic comedy, some awful shit comes out to stop both couples enjoying happiness for a bit before the inevitable happy ending. It’s standard stuff that riffs on aspects of midlife crises and questions of what it means to be a man. To be honest, the narrative itself isn’t exactly original or exciting. Nor is is as “crazy” or as “stupid” as the title promises. For a comedy starring someone as talent as Steve Carrell, it’s kind of lacking on humour and plays more towards the sentimental angle. Something that doesn’t really work with this story. We see Cal being moulded into the perfect ladies man where he is kitted out with the right fashion accessories and the key phrases needed to get a woman back to his pathetic bachelor pad. It’s an area that should be easy comedy gold but, in reality, is only able to bring up some mild titters.
This film’s major problem is that it takes itself way too seriously. There are far too many subplots and ideas thrown together that it can’t control them. At nearly 2 hours long, it is in dire need of some editing because it drags during the middle. It strives to be a jack of all trades but, as the saying goes, manages to be a master of none. It needed to be funnier or more sincere instead of wavering between the two. It’s a confusing pot of so many ideas and plot strands that it’s just lost it’s whole identity. That’s not to say that there aren’t some good ideas there. It’s just that it needed a lot of work. I mean the big twist near the end is, when you really think about it, both incredibly stupid and completely meanigingless. It doesn’t add anything to plot and doesn’t make any sense. It’s clearly just been included to make the narrative seem more intelligent than it actually is.
What makes Crazy, Stupid, Love work is the cast. They may not have the right stuff to work with but they all put everything into it.However, each actor has done way better things than this since so it’s difficult to be kind about it knowing that they can do so much more. Ryan Gosling may not have been known for his comedy skills back in 2011 but, with his more recent films, we know that he is more than suited to the funny stuff. It’s awful to see how uncomfortable he looks in certain scenes here. Still, it is undeniable that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling really do gel well on screen and the first evening that Hannah and Jacob spend together is utterly charming. Steve Carrell and Julianne Moore are equally charming and, despite the dire circumstances that their characters find themselves, the actors always manage to keep you onside. You might not completely care about their tale but you always want Cal and Emily to be happy. Basically, this is the not incredibly funny or exciting story of good people who are trying to find love. It’s not the worst thing you’ll ever see but it’s not the best either. It’s perfectly watchable… and that’s probably the nicest thing I’m going to be able to say about it.
Today has been super fucking hot and I can’t really concentrate. The only thing I want to do is lie down in a bath full of ice and just sleep until British Summer is over… so about 2 days. Still, I have a deadline looming so I’m here in front of a fucking hot laptop feeling super gross. It’s days like this that I really start to resent my shitty job. Working in a catering isn’t really my passion at the best of times but on days where I’m in a sweltering kitchen that I don’t want to be in I find it even harder to feel positive about everything. Seriously. it’s not until you get changed after a sweaty day at work and try and squeeze into a pair of super skinny jeans that you realise how fucking shitty it is to cook for a living. But I’ve always been something of a drama queen and the only thing that gets me angrier than heat is hunger.
Netflix is certainly doing everything in its power to bag itself plenty of original content to release and has been moving further down the film path for some time. However, if there’s one thing Ricky Gervais’ Special Correspondents may have taught us, there could very well be a reason why Netflix is winning the bidding with a lot of it’s stuff. The Fundamentals of Caring was bound to get crazy attention due to the fact that its the kind of feel good indie that Paul Rudd is already well associated with. The problem is, it looks exactly the same as every other feel good indie film starring a few big name stars and an ex-Disney Channel twenty-something that’s out there.
On the surface, The Fundamentals of Caring is paint by fucking numbers: grieving father Ben Benjamin (Rudd), an ex-writer, takes a job caring for Trevor (Craig Roberts), an 18 year old suffering from a rare degenerative disease and slowly learns to love himself again. It’s the same sort of story you’ve heard a thousand times before but offers a guaranteed happy, life-affirming message at the end. Trevor is a shut in and spends his days terrorising his various carers and watching news reports on famous roadside attractions that he will never visit. Until Ben convinces his mother (Jennifer Ehle) that it would be good for the boy to visit the World’s Deepest Pit. Along the way, the pair pick up a straggler in the form of Dot (Selena Gomez), a teen runaway who quickly grabs Trevor’s attention.
The trio are a strange group both in the film and in the real world but somehow everything just works. Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts have great chemistry on screen even when the material given to them is just a little too cliched indie flick. They play well off each other and bring a sense of fun to the formulaic and heavy-handed narrative. Even Selena Gomez, who shocked everyone in 2012’s Spring Breakers, doesn’t feel too out of place here. Although, it’s hard to escape the idea that she’s just on a continuing journey to shed her cutesy Disney pop star image by playing sweary, grungy girls who don’t give a fuck about society or its rules. She and Roberts make as cute a couple as you could want from this kind of thing.
Really, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with The Fundamentals of Caring but it does the standard Hollywood thing of sugaring the pill. Just as John Green and co. showed us the sexy, romantic side of cancer, director and screenwriter, Rob Burnett, shows us the fun side of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. There are some attempts to show the harsh realities of Trevor’s illness but it is mostly pushed aside in favour of looking on the brighter side. Indie or not, this isn’t the place to show someone suffering from muscle degeneration. Even the source of Ben’s despair is slowly revealed to us in hazy, slow-motion flashbacks rather than as the Earth shattering moment that it would have been. This is not a film to dwell on pain but rather to teach that no matter how hard things get there is always something positive.
Which is fine, I guess. It’s Summer and we could all do with a good dose of positivity. The film does what it’s supposed to and it does it very well thanks to its main stars. It doesn’t push the boundaries or attempt to surprise its audience. Not that it needed to of course. The Fundamentals of Caring doesn’t claim to be anything more than it is and is happy to get rid of any inconvenient issue, like Trevor’s much discussed agoraphobia, when the plot needs it. But it’s okay. You know from the off where this story is headed and you’re fine happy to just go along for the ride. This isn’t the kind of film you watch to show you a gritty reality. This is the kind of film you watch to be uplifted… and it will certainly do that.