Shrek Forever After (2010)

2018 #132
Mike Mitchell | 93 mins | Blu-ray | 2.35:1 | USA / English | U / PG

Shrek Forever After

Shrek the Third suggested that DreamWorks’ golden-goose animated franchise was running out of fairytales to subvert, so this fourth — and final (for the time being) — movie turns its attention on the series itself.

Shrek is becoming disgruntled with life as a family man, so signs a deal with Rumpelstiltskin to have just one day as a “real ogre” again — but Rumpelstiltskin is a tricksy so-and-so, using the small print to land Shrek in an alternate timeline where he was never born. If Shrek can’t sort it out by midnight, he’ll be erased forever and the new timeline will stick. The filmmakers take this storyline as an opportunity to give us a look at how characters might’ve turned out in a Shrek-less world: Fiona is a warrior leading an ogre resistance, disillusioned by life after no prince came to rescue her; Puss in Boots is a fat, pampered kitty; and Donkey is working as a cart-donkey… but is otherwise pretty much the same. I guess some personalities never change.

Sundry of the series’ many supporting characters get the same treatment, and it’s in this upending of familiarity that Forever After finds its greatest entertainment value. The result therefore favours dedicated viewers, while newcomers would be advised to seek out the franchise’s first two instalments. While this conclusion might not be quite as good, or iconic, as that pair, it does have a lot going for it, making it a more fitting finale than its mediocre predecessor.

4 out of 5

Shrek Forever After is on BBC One today at 3:10pm, and will be available on iPlayer afterwards.

La Belle et la Bête (1946)

aka Beauty and the Beast

2014 #104
Jean Cocteau | 94 mins | Blu-ray | 1.33:1 | France / French | PG

When it comes to “fairy-tale movies” — if such a genre exists as something other than a profit center for the Disney corporation — there is Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast and then there is everything else.

La Belle et la BêteSo states Geoffrey O’Brien in his essay “Dark Magic” (included in the booklet for Criterion’s Blu-ray release of La Belle et la Bête, and available online here). Despite the varied list of titles people have selected to cover for the Fairy Tale Blogathon, I feel it’s a pretty accurate statement — ask most people to name a film based on a fairy tale and they’re going to come out with a Disney; ask a cinephile and I suspect, as a rule, Cocteau’s acclaimed film would come to mind ahead of most others. After all, it’s on a variety of well-regarded best-ever lists, including both the cineastic (TSPDT, Sight & Sound, Cahiers du cinéma) and the mainstream (the Empire 500, IMDb Top 50s for Fantasy and 1940s). It’s a film considered almost without peer in its now-animation-dominated sub-genre.

I imagine you know the story — it’s a tale as old as time, after all — but let’s recap anyway: in lieu of her father, Belle (Josette Day) goes to be the ‘guest’ of the animal-like Beast (Jean Marais) in his castle. Initially repulsed by him, Belle comes to realise there’s something there that wasn’t there before as she grows attracted to her captor. Meanwhile, Belle’s would-be suitor (Marais again) resolves to kill the Beast…

As if I haven’t made it explicit enough with my shoehorning of song titles and lyrics, the elephant in the room when discussing La Belle et la Bête today is Disney’s 1991 adaptation of the same story. It may have come 45 years later and I’m sure is less kindly looked upon by cineastes, but there’s no doubting its popularity — and acclaim, in fact, notably being the first animated movie to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Simply put, Cocteau’s film is less accessible than the Disney version. That might sound like it goes without saying, but even allowing for the differences in production style (slick colourful animation with catchy Broadway-style tunes vs. black-and-white French poetic realism), Beast and the Beautyhere the characters’ relationships are more complex and ambiguous, particularly at the climax. It isn’t a simple “see the true beauty behind the ugly exterior” moral fable; indeed, if anything, Marais’ Beast is more beautiful than the man he becomes.

There are several reasons for that. One is the visual: Marcel Escoffier’s resplendent costuming, Henri Alekan’s gorgeous cinematography (more on that later), and, primarily, Hagop Arakelian’s make-up. Taking five hours to apply every day, the look of the Beast is in no way a dated ’40s special effect, but a marvellous, expressive, essential part of the character. Nonetheless, as O’Brien notes,

[The Beast says,] “You mustn’t look into my eyes.” It is, of course, his eyes that we look at, glistening from within the multilayered makeup… makeup so expressive that Marais’ real face seems a blank by comparison.

As is alluded to there, it’s not just the stuck-on fur that makes the man a Beast, but Marais’ performance. The eyes may indeed be the window to the soul, for it’s through them that we can see he’s a man underneath the beastly visage. But even in that sphere the character is a man transformed — his manner, his voice, and the steely look that often lies behind those eyes. In her essay named after the film in the BFI’s Gothic – The Dark Heart of Film compendium, Marina Warner summarises the cumulative effect of the numerous filmmaking disciplines that created the character:

[Cocteau] imagined a beast who has no rival for hideous fascination among fairytale beasts before or since: Jean Marais’s growling, slowed, incantatory delivery, his sweeping, elaborately princely magnificence of apparel, his thick pelt curling out exuberantly from his lace collar and fine linen as he springs and lopes, and, above all, his staring pale eyes in the great leonine and brindled mask of his face with the two sharp incisors defining his mouth, has never been matched for erotic power. He captures a perfect and irresistible synthesis of repulsiveness and attractiveness.

Wink wink nudge nudgeThat final idea, of the erotic or sexual in the film, seems a favourite theme for critics: O’Brien reckons “the magic is sexual throughout — a fantastic… sex magic”, and I think we’ll skip Warner’s lengthy discussion of the feelings the film elicits in her. How prevalent such undercurrents are is surely in the eye of the beholder — O’Brien notes that “it is so chaste that no censor could have ever assailed it”, and I suspect many a viewer would feel the same. That said, the soft-lensed scene in which the Beast gently laps water from Belle’s delicately cupped hands may make viewers with a particularly-disposed mind think of certain other acts.

A more defining feature of the film’s depiction of magic, I think, is its groundedness. O’Brien sums it up most succinctly when he says that “if this is magic, it is a shaggy, palpable sort of magic… we sense at each moment that we are caught up in a process governed by laws”. We rarely know what these laws are, in fact, but there’s a sense that there’s some governing order to what occurs, that some things are possible and others not — there’s clearly no love potion to solve the Beast’s problem, for instance. Many uses of magic in the film come with associated “how to use it” guides from one character or another; not presented in some kind of deconstructionist technical-manual style, but neither are they a hand-wavy “it’ll do whatever we need it to when we need it to”. To quote O’Brien again:

Cocteau was able to realize the fantastic not as an escape from the real but as an extension of it… He approaches the paraphernalia of the fairy tale — those enchanted mirrors, keys, gloves — with a technician’s dispassion, no more taken aback by their existence than by the existence of trees or streams or horses or rose gardens.

Smoking hotCocteau was trying to move away from a wishy-washy kind of fantasy — indeed, he says as much in the press book for the film’s US premiere (a piece entitled “Once Upon a Time” and also included in Criterion’s booklet): “To fairyland, as people usually see it, I would bring a kind of realism to banish the vague and misty nonsense now so completely outworn.” In these respects you could probably draw a line from Cocteau to something like Peter Jackson’s films of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, where a not-real world with magical qualities is rendered with the precision of historical drama, and even Game of Thrones, which you could certainly mistake for a real-life medieval epic (until the dragons turn up). Cocteau’s vision feels a little more storybook than either of those, but everything’s a step on a journey.

Plus, unlike either of those examples, Cocteau’s film needs to draw a line between the everyday world and the fantastical one. Much as with the Beast, this is achieved with a synthesis of production elements. The farmhouse of Belle’s family is shot on location, providing inescapable realism, and with relatively straightforward photography from Alekan. It’s not that these section are unimaginative, just that they present a world that is ‘normal’. The Beast’s castle, on the other hand, is heightened and expressionistic. Christian Bérard’s production design offers sets with lots of black emptiness in place of floors and walls, with decorations and dressings that shine, gleam and glow in Alekan’s lighting — not to mention the candelabras with self-lighting candles, held by moving arms; or the faces set in the fireplace, whose roving eyes follow the action; or the hand protruding bizarrely from the tabletop, there purely to pour the wine.

HandyIt’s in the Beast’s castle that the most enduring images of the film are played out, most famous among them being Belle’s father’s arrival, with the candles igniting themselves and the hands pointing the way, and Belle’s own arrival, a slow-motion run with billowing dress and curtains — if you haven’t seen the original, you’ve surely seen an advert inspired by it. For all the groundedness Cocteau and co may be bringing to the fantastical, it’s still a strange realm; one rendered with loving beauty in its design and photography, but with an unsettling effect. Right on the money, then.

And if we’re talking about “unsettling beauty”, we’ve surely come back round to the Beast himself, and in particular his role in the ending. You know how that turns out: having been able to see the true goodness beneath the ugly exterior, Belle is rewarded when the Beast is transformed back into a handsome prince. Hurrah — she gets a hubby who is both nice and pretty! But is it such a victory after all? Not if Cocteau gets his way:

My story would concern itself mainly with the unconscious obstinacy with which women pursue the same type of man, and expose the naïveté of the old fairy tales that would have us believe that this type reaches its ideal in conventional good looks. My aim would be to make the Beast so human, so sympathetic, so superior to men that his transformation into Prince Charming would come as a terrible blow to Beauty, condemning her to a humdrum marriage.

Pretty boyGood moral message, but isn’t the “superior” Beast the same fella as Prince Charming? The way a felled Avenant is transformed into the Beast at the same time as Charming is unveiled as a more-perfect duplicate of Avenant (it’s Marais in all three roles, of course) suggests some kind of parallel should be drawn. Warner wonders, “Has the Beast taken on [Avenant’s] appearance because [Belle] admitted to him that she was fond of Avenant?” Could be, but isn’t that a bit simple? She has another theory: “does Cocteau want to suggest that a ne’er-do-well like Avenant can also be transformed by love?” Could it be Avenant is about to get a lesson in how to be a better person, as Charming has already endured?

These are all attempts to find a positive reading of the ending, I think — one where love conquers all, and what it hasn’t conquered is a mission for the future. O’Brien is a bit more pessimistic, concluding the film is “a story more full of suffering than of wish fulfillment”. Oh dear. He believes that “even as Belle and her prince (the Beast transformed into the double of the unreliable Avenant) soar in the sky, she seems already to realize that this is not exactly what she wanted.” It’s certainly true that every character in the film goes through some misery, be it small (Belle’s sisters being snubbed from social engagements) or big (the family’s destitution), and by the end very few of these are resolved. If Belle thought she was getting an honourable Beast and instead has to suffer a preened Avenant for her foreseeable future, then she’s lost out too. Indeed, the only one who got what he wanted was the Beast: transformed back into a man, and with a lovely new wife to boot.

Beauty and the BeastThere’s a cheery message to end on. But then, this is “a fairytale for grownups” — a quote from Warner, but, to an extent, it would seem Cocteau agreed (by implication, with his statement at the start of the film urging the audience to embrace child-like acceptance of the story they are about to see) — and the resolutions of grownup stories are rarely “happy ever after”.

5 out of 5

This review is part of the Fairy Tale Blogathon. Be sure to check out the many other fascinating articles collated at Movies Silently, including my review of fairytale-inspired miniseries The 10th Kingdom.

The 10th Kingdom (2000)

2014 #104a
David Carson & Herbert Wise | 416 mins* | DVD | 4:3 | USA, UK & Germany / English | 15**

The 10th KingdomCreated by British screenwriter Simon Moore (writer of Traffik, the Channel 4 miniseries that went on to inspire Steven Soderbergh’s Oscar-winning film, and the first Dinotopia miniseries, which could not-too-inaccurately be described as “The 10th Kingdom with dinosaurs”), The 10th Kingdom is a miniseries that I seem to remember Sky made quite a fuss about when they aired it over here, nearly 15 years ago. Sadly it flopped on NBC in its native America, so we haven’t been treated to the mooted sequel(s), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth investigating now: unlike the abundance of Lost-inspired rolling TV narratives that are ruined when (almost inevitably) they’re cut short, The 10th Kingdom tells a complete self-contained story.

Said story takes place in both present-day (well, turn-of-the-millennium) New York and the fantasy world of the Nine Kingdoms — unlike the depiction in the title sequence, New York doesn’t mutate into a fantasy kingdom. Although it may not be storyline-accurate, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that’s one of the greatest title sequences of all time. In just a couple of minutes it conveys the style and theme of the show with effective, striking imagery. OK, the CGI is a little dated now, looking kinda rough around the edges, but it’s not so bad that it diminishes the sequence’s impact. It won an Emmy for Outstanding Main Title Design, and it was well deserved.

ManhattanitesAnyway, the Nine Kingdoms is the place all our fairytales come from — the part of the narrative set there takes place “almost 200 years” after the “Golden Age”, when the events we know from stories actually happened. We’re led into this world by Virginia (Kimberly Williams) and her dad, Tony (John Larroquette), after indolent monarch-to-be Prince Wendell (Daniel Lapaine) flees to our world while escaping the Evil Queen (Dianne Wiest) and winds up taking the two New Yorkers back to his world. Along with Wolf (Scott Cohen), a chap with animalistic tendencies, the quartet try to stop the Evil Queen’s evil machinations.

So it’s a quest narrative, the staple of fantasy storytelling; but, in this case, that allows Moore to explore a fair chunk of the world he’s created. It goes about that at its own, somewhat literary, speed. Published alongside the miniseries’ airing was an epically-sized novelisation by Kathryn Wesley (a pen name for couple Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith), which is how I first got into the programme. Unlike the innumerable sub-par novelisations published in the history of moviedom, this one was very good (and well-reviewed, if I recall, so it’s not just me). It’s ironic to me, then, that the series itself feels like a page-for-page adaptation of a novel. It’s something to do with the pace and style — the amount of time it’s prepared to devote to certain scenes or story elements, the way big twists and developments aren’t perfectly timed for episode endings (for example, our Manhattanite heroes enter the Nine Kingdoms just before the one hour mark — right in the middle of the first episode as originally aired, somewhere early in episode two of the ten-part version). Mummy dearestIt also means the way it’s been edited into one long movie on DVD feels quite natural: it’s one long story with arbitrary breaks, not a series of finite episodes. (If you’re thinking, “of course it’s one story, it’s a miniseries”, plenty of single-narrative series and miniseries still function as discrete episodes that build to a whole.)

Like a certain recent TV programme, the Nine Kingdoms is a world stitched together from numerous familiar stories; but, unlike that programme (the less said about which the better, in my opinion), it isn’t a land of po-faced ‘adventure’. Instead, it’s loaded with wry humour — after all, “fairytales are real and all took place in the same place” is a pretty silly concept, so why not mine it for laughs? As one character informs us, “things have gone down hill a bit since [the Golden Age] — happy ever after didn’t last as long as we’d hoped”. Rather than that meaning things are Serious and Troubling (and, based on how Once Upon a Time turned out, inadvertently laughable), things have gone to pot in a way that is amusingly reminiscent of our own world. This is mainly through a witty appropriation of real-world tropes: it begins at Snow White Memorial Prison, for example, with a worldmap that features a large arrow proclaiming “you are imprisoned here”; when some trolls believe they’ve been trapped in a witch’s pocket, they hope that if they behave they’ll be let out after serving only half the spell; later, there’s a cocktail bar that serves “A Long Slow Spell Against the Wall”; and so on (I don’t want to spoil them all!)

Wolf for the chopThis gives the whole thing a heightened comedy tone, emphasised by many of the performances. A gaggle of troll siblings are irritatingly over-played, but Cohen’s meat-obsessed Wolf is a hammy delight (pun very much intended). The entertainment value means we quickly warm to the characters, so that when more perilous aspects of their quest do come into play later on, we care what happens. Plus, like most of the original fairytales (as opposed to Disney-style sanitised re-tellings), there’s the odd darker undercurrent. For instance, you may think the story of Snow White ends with a kiss and “happily ever after”, but here we’re told how the stepmother who poisoned Snow White was made to wear fire-heated iron shoes and ‘dance’ at the wedding until her feet were burnt raw, before being thrown out into the snow. Very dark and grim (and possibly from the original tale, for all I know).

In the main, however, The 10th Kingdom takes fairytales, not for their grimness, but for the chance to subvert, play with, or expand on them. So, for example, when Wolf and Tony come across a woodchopper who’ll tell them what they want to know if only they can guess his name — and if they get it wrong, he’ll chop off one of their heads — Tony signs them up without a second thought: he knows this one. With Wolf’s head on the block, he declares “Rumpelstiltskin!” The woodchopper replies, “wrong!” Uh-oh. This feeds into Tony’s growing annoyance with why people in this world can’t just tell you things, or exchange money for services, but instead always pose riddles — real-world logic clashing with the fairytale tradition. And it has a funny pay-off, too.

My precious...Little details in this vein abound: an apple tree has grown by Snow White’s cottage (don’t eat those apples!); the site of her glass coffin is now a tourist attraction; if you break a mirror, you genuinely get seven years’ bad luck… There’s also a pair of golden shoes that can turn you invisible, but the more you wear them the more you desire to use them all the time — what a precious idea (wink wink nudge nudge). These subversions also manifest in a strain of pleasant practicality; for instance, the abundant magic mirrors aren’t “just there”, but instead have been manufactured by dwarves. It lends the feel of a fully-conceived and rule-bound world, rather than an “anything can happen”, “just because” environment.

Even with all this, there remain a few major fairytales that aren’t touched upon. The Little Mermaid is one; another obvious omission is Beauty and the Beast — except there is a version of that included: the romance between Virginia and Wolf. The comparison isn’t drawn out in the text, particularly as Wolf isn’t an ugly hairy monster (though he does have a tail), but the similarities are there: his first encounter is actually with her father; he pursues Virginia even though the attraction isn’t mutual; she gradually comes around to him; there’s a third-act complication (spoilers!), before they eventually end up together (surprise!) It doesn’t have the same thematic heft as a proper retelling of Beauty and the Beast because it doesn’t have the whole “seeing the true beauty inside” thing — Wolf may give in to his urges once or twice, most notably in a storyline set in a town dominated by the Peep (as in Little Bo) family, where prejudice comes to the fore and Virginia has to defend him, but he’s never a full-on monster. There are elements of the tale’s other subtext, about a woman having power and control (or not) over her future, but, again, not in quite the same way: Wolf is besotted with Virginia and she doesn’t (initially) reciprocate his numerous advances — Animal attractiona world away from being locked in a castle until you change your mind. If this sounds like criticism, it isn’t. I’m not arguing the love story element of the series is unsuccessful — I’m sure it engages plenty of fans as the series’ primary attraction, even — but, on reflection, I’m not sure reading it as a Beauty and the Beast variation is actually that illuminating.

That’s fine, because the value of The 10th Kingdom lies not in how it retells its fairytale inspirations, but how it takes their familiar symbols and tropes and then reconfigures and expands on them, how it follows their implications through with real-world-logic, or mashes them up against the banalities of our world, often to comical effect. It’s a series that requires a basic knowledge of the tales used as its basis — not in an academic way, but in the way most of us have, thanks to exposure through childhood story-time or endless Disney movies. By playing on such ingrained knowledge, the pay-offs can be huge. Put those amusing subversions alongside likeable characters and a story that is at once world-endangering and deeply personal for our heroes, and you have top-drawer entertainment.

5 out of 5

This review is part of the Fairy Tale Blogathon. Be sure to check out the many other fascinating articles collated at Movies Silently, and come back here on Tuesday for my second contribution, a review of Jean Cocteau’s 1946 adaptation of La Belle et la Bête.


* That’s just under seven hours to you and me. Most DVD releases present that as a non-stop movie, however in the US it was originally aired as five two-hours (which is reportedly how it’s presented on the 2013 DVD re-release), and in other regions (including the UK) as ten one-hours. ^

** Yes, it really is a 15. That must be thanks to some kind of technicality (use of knives, imitable violent techniques, etc), because it feels completely unwarranted. ^

October 2014 + Favourite Fairy Tale Films

Lots to get through in this most decimal of months, so I’ll provide you with a nifty ten-point contents list…

  • October’s WDYMYHS entry (if there was one!)
  • Announcing this year’s #100!
  • All of this month’s viewing.
  • Analysis of the above, plus…
  • A note on my quite grand all-time review total.
  • A visual recap of this month’s archive re-posts.
  • A note on changes to some header images (more exciting than that sounds… maybe…)
  • A section I have titled “No longer loving film”…
  • What are your Favourite Fairy Tale Films?
  • And the “next time” bit. Bet no one ever clicks through to that. But this month there’s a poem. Oo-ooh.
  • All in all, it’s a thorough monthly round-up! So let’s get going…


    What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…?

    This one’ll be quick: there’s no WDYMYHS film this month. First time I’ve slipped this year.

    Why not? I simply didn’t fancy one. The pool has narrowed to just Oldboy, Rear Window, and Requiem for a Dream, and while I’m sure they’re all great films — and all ones I’ve been keen to see for yonks — an opportunity didn’t arise where they felt right. I could’ve forced one last night, but what’s the point in forcing it?

    Two months remain to make it up. And maybe actually watch Raging Bull like I said I would, too.

    In happier news:


    And #100 is…

    I’ve tried to make previous #100s notable, when possible: in 2007 it was the (then-)greatest film of all time, Citizen Kane; in 2010 it was the most recent Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker; and last year it was the epically epic Lawrence of Arabia. (The other two, Swing Time and The A-Team, are both films I liked, but both were viewed more of necessity than strict “what would be a good #100?” choice.)

    Come this year, then, and what have I chosen for my sixth #100? After being scuppered for several days by not fancying anything too momentous, I threw the desire for meaning out the window and acquiesced to the other half’s request for me to “get that rude-sounding film off the Virgin box”, rendering 2014’s #100 as the debut feature of American Hustle’s David O. Russell, Spanking the Monkey. Here’s my drabble review.

    (It’s an unfortunate coincidence that I’ve posted multiple drabble reviews in the past week. Full-length reviews do continue, and I’m sure there’ll be some soon.)


    Dead Poets SocietyOctober’s films in full

    #98 Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978), aka Se ying diu sau
    #99 The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
    #100 Spanking the Monkey (1994)
    #101 The Tourist (2010)
    #102 Edge of Tomorrow (2014), aka Live. Die. Repeat.
    Cockneys vs Zombies#103 Dead Poets Society (1989)
    #104 La Belle et la Bête (1946), aka Beauty and the Beast
    #104a The 10th Kingdom (2000)
    #105 Ten Little Indians (1965)
    #106 Furious 6 (2013), aka Fast & Furious 6
    #107 Cockneys vs Zombies (2012)
    #108 Last Action Hero (1993)


    Analysis

    Ooooooone-huuuuuundred!

    Ahem, ‘scuse me. But that’s undoubtedly the headline of this month’s viewing: as you may’ve noticed, I’ve reached #100, for the sixth time out of eight attempts. That’s a 75% success rate — not bad, really. This is the first time I’ve done it in October; a month behind my two earliest years (2007 and 2010 got there in September), ahead of last year’s November finish, and considerably less stressful than the down-to-the-wire December conclusions of 2008 and 2011 (both of which reached #100 on December 31st!)

    This is also the fourth time I’ve passed the 100 films total. The next milestone is last year’s 110, which I’m closing in on (I’m already further ahead than I was at the end of November last year); after that, there’s 2010’s 122 and 2007’s 129 still to overtake. 2007 was my first year and remains unbettered, so it would be just shiny to finally achieve that. I’m 22 films away from that goal, which the averages for this year suggest is possible — a little too possible, actually, as 11-films-a-month is the precise average of the year to date. (Which, you’ll note, makes October a particularly average month.) Alas, history adds no reassurance: my average tally for previous November & December viewing is 17 films — and that’s boosted by strong numbers in 2008 and 2009, too: over the past four years, my Nov./Dec. average total is just 11. Still, 2014 hasn’t played ball when it comes to past averages, so we’ll see.

    And, incidentally, though I ‘only’ watched 11 new films this month, I gave over five film-viewing slots to The 10th Kingdom — if I’d watched countable films instead, I’d be at 16, which would’ve made October my second-best month of 2014. But I didn’t, so it isn’t… but without a similar miniseries re-watch project lined up for the immediate future, November and December’s numbers might benefit.

    It’s all to play for! Which is exciting for me, at least.

    Moving on…


    Niiiiine-huuuuundred

    Also this month, I passed 900 feature film reviews. Sure sounds like a lot to me.

    OK, firstly, I haven’t posted 900 reviews — my backlog’s still quite extensive — but I’ve surpassed 900 films that will be reviewed. I’m somewhere in the 850s right now, I think.

    Secondly, it doesn’t mean I’ve reached #900. The tally includes all the extra reviews I’ve done down the years — the repeat viewings and the not-that-different director’s cuts and so on. The official #900 (as it were) would be this year’s #148. I’m doing well, but that’s not very likely at all. Next year, then.

    And with that, there’s a chance for something even bigger: if I can make it suitably far past #100 this year and next year, one of 2015’s last films will be #1000!

    (For those interested in a more precise number, I need to reach #124 both years for that to happen. Alternatively, if I do make it to a record-breaking #130 this year, then 2015’s #118 would be #1000. There are dozens of other plausible permutations besides those, of course.)


    This month’s archive reviews

    As I discussed a couple of weeks ago, my old stomping ground of FilmJournal is no more. For more on what that means check out the link, but for the purposes of my archive re-posts: they’re now more labour-intensive to complete, and I’m lazy, so there have been fewer. The project will still be finished, but it may take a bit longer than the speed I was churning through them before.

    Nonetheless, the last 31 days have seen 20 reviews re-appear:


    Pretty Pictures, Mk.II

    Back in August 2013, I finally added some header images to my “list of reviews” and “reviews by director” pages. This month, there’s been a little refresh and addition. “List of reviews” remains the same, but “reviews by director” has been updated to reflect my most-reviewed directors — mostly thanks to zombie movies

    George A. Romero barged his way to near the top of the pile when I reviewed all six of his “of the Dead” films this time last year, while World War Z saw Marc Forster tip from the also-rans into the must-includes. There are 20 slots on that banner, and a fourteen-way tie for 18th place means I had to be selective. Quite by chance, I remained alphabetical: Hideaki Anno and James Cameron remain from the previous banner (Cameron due to significance, Anno because I’ll watch Evangelion 3.33 early next year when Manga UK are finally able to release it, which will only cement his place), while Danny Boyle is added. (Directors leaving the banner to make room are Richard Lester, George Lucas, and David Yates.)

    Finally, I’ve finally added a header to the “coming soon” page. That’s a page that lists films I’ve already seen but will review in days to come — it’s looking ‘back to the future’, if you will. And that explains that.


    No longer loving film

    Also this month in the world of 100 Films, I finally cancelled my LOVEFiLM (or, as it’s now known, LOVEFiLM By Post) subscription. I liked it for the ability to rent pretty much anything released on disc (a far better selection than any streaming service offers, not to mention the comparative picture quality), but between all the stuff I’ve bought, the convenience of aforementioned streaming services (LOVEFiLM may have more choice overall, but only one or two discs in your possession at any one time), and recording stuff off TV too, I wasn’t getting through my rentals. Indeed, in some cases I’ve theoretically spent more on one rental than if I’d just bought a copy. Ugh. So I finally made the cancellation leap.

    I’ve still got a Now TV films subscription for the time being, but as the price of that recently went up, I’m not sure for how much longer…


    Favourite Fairy Tale Films

    Once again I haven’t found the time to get stuck into a fully-written list of five, but having watching La Belle et la Bête and The 10th Kingdom in preparation for next weekend’s Fairy Tale Blogathon, I was thinking: what’s your favourite fairy tale movie?

    Disney seem to have a near-monopoly on these, so undoubtedly some of their output would’ve made my list — Beauty and the Beast, definitely; The Little Mermaid and Aladdin are childhood favourites for me; and Cinderella is my pick of their older classics. Also from the Mouse House is Enchanted — inspired by fairy tales rather than technically adapted from them, but one of the best movies to play in that sandpit. Similarly, the Shrek series, and The 10th Kingdom too.

    And if you want to get really out there, the BFI’s list of 10 great fairytale films allows in cinematic originals like My Neighbour Totoro and Pan’s Labyrinth. The former I could definitely go for in my final five, but I didn’t warm to the latter. Must re-watch that.

    Feel free to share your thoughts below.


    Next month on 100 Films in a Year…

    Remember, remember, you films in November,
    have good characters, dialogue, and plot.
    I know of no movie
    worth considering groovy
    that does not have the lot.

    (With my apologies.)