What did I watch this week? Some fantastic things and one incredibly horribly awful thing. I barely even know what to say about it, but I’ll talk a bit anyway.
But here’s the list:
- Laputa: Castle in the Sky by Hayao Miyazaki
- Wreck-It Ralph by Rich Moore
- Blue Ruin by Jeremy Saulnier
- Olympus Has Fallen by Antoine Fuqua
- Big Hero Six by Don Hall & Chris Williams
Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)
I discussed this in depth last week here at Entropy as I cover the thirty years of Studio Ghibli.
Oh man, can’t believe it took me so long to see this. Unbelievably fun film. Hilarious, touching, and with all that great Disney charm you’re usually looking for, but lacking all the things that make Frozen and Tangled stupid [controversial statement!].
Definitely huge for people who love animation, videogames, or just movies meant for children that are really meant for all of us, regardless of age. Because the best stories for children are for adults too. They’re the stories that never leave you, but burrow deep into your heart and wrap around your brainstem, becoming part of our anatomy. They’re the stories that teach us how to live and breathe and be human.
And Wreck-It Ralph certainly succeeds there. As is usual, it’s about outsiders and their personal and physical journey for acceptance. That’s always key, too: the narrative arc is both internal and external. Ralph and Vanellope can’t really become heroes until they accept themselves, and in accepting themselves they become heroes and gain the acceptance of their peers.
Also, John C Reilly is a longtime favorite of mine, though I prefer his work with Paul Thomas Anderson to anything he did with Will Ferrell and others like him, I still find him a pleasant person to have on screen, and he’s so perfect here. Amid all the nods to classic videogames and so on, he stands above it all as a generally pleasant character, inhabiting Ralph so wholly.Jack McBreyer, too. He’ll always be Kenneth to me, but he does a great job here.
Also, one thing I loved, and I don’t know if this has been going on for a long time or not, but the credits aren’t all about the voice actors. Rather, they’re full of the animators and creative people who made a film like this possible. I watched the credits for probably a minute and the actors’ names never came up, which, to me, is awesome. I mean, those actors show up for maybe a week to do their lines.
Those animators spend months or years making that film happen and they deserve to be center stage.
But, yeah, such a great film.
Probably never would have watched this if not for Cameron Pierce and J David Osborne telling me about this director’s follow up to this film, but I’m so glad I did.
This is dark and gritty and disturbing and violent and emotional. It also uses the language of film rather than filling up time with people talking. We’re giving the story mostly visually with very little talking for the first half of the film. We follow a seemingly homeless man as he wanders rural areas in the east. It’s not entirely clear where he always is, but he’s sometimes in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Maybe other places too. It doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that he’s in the real world living a life outside of it. We’re given very few answers or reasons overtly, but we come to understand a lot about our protagonist, Dwight. A victim of violence, he ends up being a tool of violence himself. His behavior is not meant to be moralised.
The film isn’t asking us directly what we think about these characters. It’s handing us the characters and their lives and leaving it up to us.
What do we think of Dwight? How should we react to what he does in the film? Are we on his side? Should we be?
This is a truly fantastic film. One that you can come back to again and again, though it’ll tear at your nerve endings and it made me steal glances at the screen through the fingers covering my face.
I could say so many things about this, about violence and how it cycles, about love and dying, about what it means to be human, about why we are the way we are and how we’re always hoping to be better, to rise above it.
But I think I’ll just tell you to watch this as soon as you can.
It’ll haunt you and stick inside you long after the film ends, after the blood and tears dry.
By far the worst film I’ve seen in months and months. Maybe years.
It’s offensively bad.
It’s not the kind of thing that’s bad in an amusing way, like The Hobbit or things of that nature. It’s a film that’s both reprehensible, racist, jingoistic, and just unutterably stupid.
Truth be told, the only reason I watched this was because my landlord was watching it as I came over. I don’t know why I kept watching. We were sharing beers and had also just watched Blue Ruin, but this film is so horrible.
It glorifies torture and the worst abuses of the american empire.
I barely have words for this assault on your brain and eyes.
Big Hero Six (2014)
And then there are films like this that sort of wash the foul effluvia of Olympus Has Fallen away.
Big Hero Six isn’t perfect, but, like Wreck-It Ralph it’s so much fun. But it’s also a better film. A bigger and grander film. A beautiful and tragic and haunting and hilarious film. It reminds me of the Disney films I grew up with. I’m talking about The Lion King, Mulan, Beauty and the Beast, Hercules, Aladdin, and so on. I’ll always consider those the best of Disney, and this reminded me of them.
We have tragic elements. We have heroic elements. We have emotional resonance. We have great humor. Hiro reminds me of Simba, in certain ways. He has an almost ideal life that’s taken from him. In trying to recapture all that he’s lost, he finds the darkness inside himself, and his journey is one of conquering personal demons and coming to terms with the infinite flux that is life.
And then there’s Baymax, which brings so much to the film. Silliness, big emotions, and a deep love.
What’s interesting to me about this is that Baymax, the robot, is the one who teaches us how to be human. More than any of the characters, Baymax teaches us what it means to be human, how to love, how to behave, and he’s the one to pay attention to.
The emotions swell and surprise you and the story truly takes you places. We begin as children with Hiro but come out of the film having discovered the depths and heights of humanity.
It’s masterfully done.
It’s also the only film of this size that I can think of that stars Asian Americans, which probably doesn’t matter to most people, but I think it’s important. It also has some great worldbuilding of a possible future with unbelievably awesome inventions coming to life.
I mean, there are problems, but it’s well worth your time.
Go see it. Bring your kids or girlfriend or wife or whomever.
Everyone should enjoy this film.
If you’re with someone who hates it, you should rethink your friendship with that monster.