My Week in Movies 2018 Week 1

When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, I don’t tend to bother. What makes January 1st any more of a life-changing moment than any other date on the calendar? Also, I have absolutely terrible will-power and lack any traditional source of self-motivation, so resolutions of any kind were often left forgotten and neglected before the leftover Christmas turkey was finished. However, 2017 saw a great many changes occur within my world, not the least of which was me turning 30 and becoming engulfed in an all-consuming sense of my own mortality. As such for me 2018 shall be a year of re-evaluation; a year of assessing just what it is in life that I enjoy, and what brings joy to those around me, and how can these things be experienced more. I’m also taking steps to becoming a little more healthy, mainly by sleeping more and running now and then. The first run, which took place on January 1st at approximately 8:17am, last all of 18 minutes and covered a little under 2 miles. I could attribute this dismal performance to the fact that the skies were dispensing torrents of icy cold rain and I was wearing just a t-shirt and shorts, but ultimately it’s my own utter lack of fitness that is to blame. Since then I have wrapped up considerably more warmly and embarked upon two more 4+ mile quests, and returned home chilly, exhausted, but proud of having taken meagre steps towards a better way of life.

Ordinarily you might expect a post around about now with a title along the lines of “Life Vs Film in 2018” wherein I’d lay out my goals for the year ahead. Alas there will be no such post. I’ve set goals before, and failed to achieve them – just last year I endeavoured to watch-and-review a measly fourteen films throughout the entirety of 2017, of which I ultimately watched two and reviewed neither – so this year I’ll be taking a more devil-may-care let’s see-what-life-throws-at-us approach, and I hope to end the year significantly less stressed and disappointed than in the past. Speaking of the past, here’s what I watched in the first week of 2018:
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Top 10… Movie Houses

Homes. We all have them. Well, homeless people don’t, but I’ve found my readership is made up with less and less of these people every day, so I can safely assume that if you’re reading this then you probably have a home. As I mentioned on a recent Lambcast (with Justin and Dylan, both from Man, I Love Films), I’ve just moved house (or “moved,” as they refer to it). Regular readers will know this has been a long and drawn out process, so I thought it deserving of a Top 10 list devoted to it. Plus, it’s my first actual house (I used to live in a flat, or apartment), so it’s something of a milestone in my life.Pit
Movie houses come in all shapes and sizes. Many films deal with a certain amount of wish fulfillment, and therefore tend to feature exceedingly wealthy characters that can afford lavish palaces in picturesque locations, and these are definitely represented on this list. However, this isn’t a list of the biggest movie houses, these are the ones that I’d most like to live in, kind of, or one’s that represent a certain kind of life. You’ll see what I mean.YodaAs always, I’ve set myself some requirements. Firstly, whilst it doesn’t necessarily have to be a house, it cannot be an apartment, as that could be a whole other list, presumably when I eventually can’t make my mortgage repayments and have to downsize. And that’s about it. No other rules. Nice and simple. Continue reading

Top 10… Animated Voice Performances

I’m not really one for new year’s resolutions. Regardless of how many things in my life I’d like to change – weight, social life, number of films I watch – the whole resolution concept is one I’ve just never comfortably got behind. However, at the start of this year I made a small mental note that I’d like to podcast a bit more, with the specific aim of appearing on one podcast in particular – the Milfcast, the official podcast of manilovefilms.com. Hosted by Kai and Heather, it’s easily one of the most entertaining podcasts available, and covers such diverse subjects as the Alien franchise (particularly Aliens) and defecating in cereal (particularly Cheerios). A few months ago I was fortunate enough to appear on a Lambcast episode with Kai, during which I’d intended to ask him how one would become eligible to guest on his great show, only for him to invite me on before I had a chance. As such, you can hear Kai, Heather and myself discussing all manner of film-related things on the latest episode of the Milfcast, which can be found here.

On the episode, the general discussion topic, as selected by myself, was our favourite voice performances of animated characters. I mention on the show that this was perhaps the hardest list I’d ever compiled, mainly because it could only consist of three entries. However, with so many possible entrants available I just had to expand it, so here’s my top 10. Oh, and I limited myself to just one selection per film, if you were wondering.

Honourable Mention: Mr. DNA (Greg Burson), Jurassic Park    Mr. DNAIf there is any possible way that I can crowbar Jurassic Park into a Top 10 list, you can rest assured that life will find a way. Although Mr. DNA doesn’t have much screentime in Jurassic Park, he has one of the most important roles in the film – delivering the most perfectly executed exposition sequence in movie history, and he sounds exactly like the kind of second rate educational short films you’d be forced to sit through at school.
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Guaranteed Happiness: Wall-E

Welcome to the first post in my new semi-regular feature, Guaranteed Happiness. I’ve discovered that a lot of the films I’ve watched recently haven’t necessarily dealt with very happy subjects, and this has been getting me down a bit. Now and then, I’d quite like to watch a happy film, or one that’s uplifting and ensures that I’ll have a big stupid grin on my face for at least 80% of it, and definitely at the end. After all, I’d much rather write about a film I’m passionate about, and I tend to have more to say about films that make me smile than those that make me suicidal. Praise should be aimed squarely between the shoulders of my girlfriend then, for sticking on Pixar’s gem Wall-E when I was in a decidedly cranky mood a little while ago. The aim was for me to sit down and write some posts, which to be honest I was in no mood to do after a fairly crappy day at work and having to shell out over a considerable amount of cash to fix my bike, yet as soon as the film began all thoughts of blogging and even glancing at my laptop screen were out the window.So, why do I love Wall-E? The simple answer is robots. It’ll come as no surprise to regular readers that a film featuring robots (or dinosaurs, time travel or Stephen Tobolowsky) will immediately be watched with heightened levels of glee. And the fact that it’s made by Pixar, a company that has made some of my favourite films to date, and is where I’d be willing to sell several members of my immediate family to work at, then so much the better.This is my favourite Pixar film, which is definitely saying something. I adore the Toy Story trilogy (especially, predictably, Rex), but there’s something about Wall-E‘s simplicity, its pared down scope and focus on telling a straightforward story in new, interesting, and above all, beautiful ways.

The plot is basic: in the not-too-distant future, the human race has polluted and destroyed the world so much that life has become unsustainable, and the only hope lies in the Axiom, a titanic spaceship resplendent with every luxurious convenience to fulfil any desire. Earth has been abandoned and left to the robots, who spend the next few hundred years tidying the place up. Wall-E, our intrepid hero, is the last surviving ‘bot, and he spends his days making and stacking little cubes of garbage into towering skyscrapers of trash, accompanied by his only friend, a cockroach. One day, a ship descends from the heavens, carrying EVE, a futuristic, high tech reconnaissance droid, and Wall-E is instantly smitten.

The tale of a schlubby, down-on-his-luck guy falling in love with an out-of-his-league wonder girl is hardly new, but as far as I know this is the first time it’s been told almost entirely wordlessly, and about mechanical beings. A certain amount of disbelief needs to be suspended to watch the film – the robots seem to have far more personality than they should have been implanted with in the factory – but this results in one of the most well-rounded characters in all of Pixar’s history. Wall-E (which stands for Waste Allocated Load Lifter – Earth Class, something I know from memory) has a love for all things quirky, unusual or fascinating, be it a Rubik’s cube, egg whisk or an old VHS of Hello Dolly!, and watching him investigate the functions of each item – wearing a bra like sunglasses, accidentally erupting a fire extinguisher – are a joy to behold. As are his attempts to woo the evidently disinterest EVE (whose acronym would be a spoiler). The couple’s dates are more moving and say far more than any scene of dialogue could.

It’s almost impossible to narrow the film down to my favourite scene, but I’d probably say EVE and Wall-E’s space flight. It’s nothing short of a work of art, as the two bots fly a merry courtship dance around one another, set to Thomas Newman’s beautiful score. In fact, every scene between just those two, all almost entirely devoid of dialogue, are so very easily lost in. Their relationship feels natural and real, and if anything the films is at a detriment as the plot moves away from Earth, and the story looks past our central couple.

There’s a few messages hidden not too deeply in the film – stop fucking up the Earth, grow your own food, get off your arse and exercise – but to be fair these are all fairly good messages, when compared to the standard Disney fare of wait for a handsome prince to come and rescue you. Wall-E’s messages are ones I personally agree with (“even if I don’t necessarily live by them,” he says, patting the spare tyre around his midriff) so I don’t really mind such unsubtle preaching in a film, especially one as entertaining as this.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’d have loved nothing more than to have been part of the character design team on this film. Wall-E himself has been so carefully thought out with regard to how he works and fits together. I may have appreciated this more than most, being a mechanical engineer by trade, but I think everyone should be impressed by the level of detail. Apparently the design team at Pixar meticulously analysed various machines, working out which ones were ‘male’ and which were ‘female’, and what characteristics defined these genders. Wall-E has clearly been inspired by more clunkier, mechanical machinery, as seen in factories and assembly lines, whilst the sleek, white plastic of EVE is straight out of an Apple store.

As you’ve probably realised, I love this film. The Wall-E poster, a giant pair of his eyes looking inquisitively out of the frame, justifiably hangs in in my lounge, yet I think it almost qualifies as one of the ‘other’ Pixar films that isn’t about toys, fish or superheroes. From the small details – sci-fi queen Sigourney Weaver voicing the Axiom’s tannoy – to the fully realised plot and the brilliance of casting Ben Burtt, the voice of R2D2, as Wall-E, I cannot fault this film in the least, and nor would I want to. And I’d still be trying to get Randy Newman’s closing credits song out of my head if it wasn’t so bloody good.

Choose film 10/10

Pixar Day

Had a bit of an accident this morning, got knocked off my bike on the way to work. I’m fine, but my bike’s wrecked, and I was confined to the sofa for the day, and couldn’t think of a better way to cheer myself up than watching nothing but Pixar films, and all off the list!
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