About two boys

Remember that film that followed a boy growing up in an economically precarious environment, that took us from the boy’s childhood through adolescence to early adulthood? The film about a boy whose father was (largely) absent and whose mother struggled with her situation, with getting older and feeling that she hadn’t done a good job of being a parent? That was told in relatively plot-free, naturalistic episodes that mostly began and ended in medias res? The film that most critics loved and that was nominated for most major awards?

In your mind, what colour was that boy?

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It’s about cats. Singing and dancing cats. You’ll love it.

Years ago, I went to see the stage version of The Lion King in London. As the lights went down and people stopped talking, knowing that the show was about to begin, a kid one or two rows in front of me piped up. “I don’t like lions!” Well, tough, kid, you’re going to get lions, whether you like them or not.

Most people like lions, if they keep their distance and don’t attempt to eat you or your loved ones. What many people don’t like? Musicals. Some people don’t like action films, others aren’t really into horror movies, but I don’t think there’s a single genre that as many people claim not to like as musicals. To be honest, though: until a few years ago, I would have said the same, though I may have qualified it a bit more – I don’t like the Platonic ideal (i.e. the pretentiously formulated stereotype) of a musical that people may think of when the genre comes up. At the same time, some of the films I liked best growing up were musicals, such as Hair or Jesus Christ Superstar. I’ve even rewatched some musicals that didn’t click for me when I was growing up, like West Side Story, and I’ve come to greatly enjoy them. Similarly, “Once More With Feeling” is one of my favourite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Killer, and I’d defend its artistic merits as much as I would those of my favourite less jazz-handy episodes.

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We must love one another or die

You know how this story ends. It ends the same way as every story does, if we’re being honest. “Happily ever after” sounds nice, but it is really only a comforting fiction. All stories move towards the same end, mine, yours, everyone’s. Does that make them bad stories? Is every story that’s honest also depressing?

Then again, what choice do we have? And, if we admit to ourselves – not just occasionally, with a start, but with every breath – that every story ends the same way, would we still choose to live those stories? Could we even, without our hearts breaking constantly?

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They create worlds: INSIDE

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

Dystopias are a dime a dozen these days; dystopias starring children doubly so. INSIDE isn’t the video game version of the latest YA trilogy, though, and its dystopia is decidedly more grim and hopeless even than Katniss’ gladiatorial arena. The game’s world is deadly yet impersonal, its dilapidated rural and industrial backgrounds depict a world that is in its last throes. Yet, strangely, it is also one of the most beautiful video games worlds I’ve ever seen.

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If music be the food of love

I fell in love with John Carney’s Once. That is not a particularly original reaction to the film, but it’s definitely true for me. Once is a beautiful, subtle love story told mostly through music – or is it a music film told through romance? Having recently watched Carney’s follow-ups, Begin Again and Sing Street, those same elements, love and music, are central there too, and with them it’s also impossible to separate the romance and the music.

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Shamisen Hero

“If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see, no matter how unusual it may seem. If you look away, even for an instant, then our hero will surely perish.”

— Kubo and the Two Strings

Laika Entertainment may just be the most underrated animation studio currently working. Everyone knows Disney and Pixar, you can barely go to the cinema without seeing a DreamWorks trailer, and Studio Ghibli and Aardman Animations deservedly have a large fanbase. Laika’s gorgeous features, from Coraline to ParaNorman, are mentioned much more rarely, though – which is a shame, since their latest, Kubo and the Two Strings, deserves much more of an audience, as it is one of the most beautiful works of animation I’ve seen in a long time.

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Chronicle of a death foretold

Is there an actor better than Brendan Gleeson when it comes to evoking the strange, rare combination of exasperation and sadness? Look at his filmography and you’ll find funny, poignant performances throughout, from The General and The Tailor of Panama via 28 Days Later (he makes it out of the film before the shaky ending, though not before breaking our hearts) to Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, where he’s the perfect complement to Colin Farrell’s thick, tragicomic protagonist.

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