For anyone who missed it, here's the skinny. Basically, what Im presenting here is my attempt to chart a whole years worth of film-watching something I have wanted to do for some time now. The aim is to post frequently, chronicling every film I watch this year both offering reviews and setting myself the ultimate goal of watching (and writing about) as many films as humanly possible.
Two more additions to the diary, sticking with TV listings today, given that I'm currently looking after two ailing members of my family, and in serious danger of catching cooties myself. Surely two family films will sort me out- starting with:
Film #3 Around the World In Eighty Days (1956)Director: Michael Anderson Starring: David Niven, Cantinflas & Finlay Currie
No, thankfully not the 2004 remake with Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan. Instead, today's film is the 1956, David Niven lead globe-trotter with a sprawling cast of cameo-appearances, and some incredibly grand set-pieces that occasionally threaten to topple it over entirely. Oddly, for a film still counted as reasonable fare for a lazy Bank Holiday Sunday TV slot, there is a frightening amount of authorised, gleeful racism - American's are greedy and debauched, Indians untrustworthy exotics, and Englishmen stiflingly proper fools. There is, though, nothing consciously fascist about the national caricatures - in most cases it is merely exposition to carry the plot forward without the need for overt explanations of where Fogg and his companions are at any given time. It still leaves a slightly bitter taste in the mouth, nevertheless.
David Niven offers fine work as the epitome of the English gentleman, who is a slave to schedule and routine (to such a degree that his determination to win his wager means he never casts even a cursory glance around him to enjoy his exotic surroundings, or take in foreign cultures), but it is Cantinflas' lascivious Passepartous who wins the most focus throughout the film. His stunt-work is unbelievable, and he steals almost every scene with his showmanship, which makes the actor's seeming inability to translate his huge popularity in Mexican film into justified presence in Hollywood all the more confusing.
Was it a worthy Best Picture Oscar Winner? Of course not - but it just goes to show the former value of having an extra large purse and the marketing strength to match. How this film walked away with the gong ahead of Giant, The Searchers and The Man Who Knew Too Much is well beyond me, I'm afraid, and the embarrassment of riches facing the Academy that year should really have made a mockery of the decision to award it to Anderson's colourful epic. But then it's not the first or last time an unworthy picture has walked away with the top honour is it?
What it does offer is extreme escapism- there is something to be said of this type of grand caper film, and it is very easy to let yourself get lost in the story, and its grandeur, without ever feeling challenged at all.
Film #4 Enchanted
Complete guilty pleasure - I love the way Enchanted takes the model for sickly sweet Disney films and adds an flourish of smart self-parody, including absolutely nailed-on performances by Amy Adams and James Marsden as wide-eyed naive cartoon characters dropped into the real world. But not only is it a meta-film, re-presenting established fairy tale tropes in an alien environment, it also furthers the Disney universe's reputation for excellent musical numbers and set-pieces, with "How Does She Know" in particular representing a rare modern musical high-point for the Mouse House. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRYU4cqUAUs
There's also something to be said of a good old-fashioned romantic fairy tale, and thanks to superb casting across the board (with Susan Sarandon resplendent as a Maleficent reincarnation) the magic really lands.