Tag Archives: cinema

271 – Soul

Occupying some similar thematic terrain to Coco, Pixar’s 2017 masterpiece, Soul uses an afterlife-bound journey with a tight deadline to explore what it is that makes us human, in the context of a life devoted to music. When Joe, a music teacher and passionate jazz pianist, dies in a classic open manhole cover accident, his soul, now separated from his body but desperate to live, escapes an A Matter of Life and Death-inspired travelator to Heaven and ends up in the Great Before, a meadow populated with unborn souls preparing for their upcoming lives. Mistaken for a mentor, he is assigned 22, a cynical, sarcastic soul with no desire to live on Earth, and when he tries to return to his body, she accidentally comes with.

As well as to Coco, Mike finds Soul comparable to another of Pixar’s films: Soul handles philosophical concepts the way Inside Out did psychological ones, rendering them visually imaginative and narratively physical. ‘The zone’, where people describe themselves when feeling that transcendent state of flow when an activity consumes them, is in the Great Before a real place that Joe and 22 visit; the unborn souls develop personality traits signified by Boy Scout-style badges. The storytelling is economical and concise, characters’ priorities and attitudes smoothly and legibly changing as their goals and relationships shift. It’s a beautifully told story.

José considers the social and economic setting of Joe’s life, the music he loves and the barber he visits, about whose life he learns – the film humanely understands people and hardship without wallowing in despair, finding space for joy. We wonder how well it will play to kids, thrilled that Pixar refuses to speak down to its audience, if a little unsure about how much will translate to the younger members of its target audience. Predictably, Mike finished the film in tears, despite an ending he found to be overly mechanical and inorganic.

Soul is a beautiful, wonderful film. To José, it’s a masterpiece. To Mike, possibly not, but only because Coco exists. See it.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

38 – Coco

(Mind out for spoilers, we don’t do a good job of warning of them here. After the plot synopsis at the beginning, expect spoilers throughout.)

Pixar’s extraordinarily vivid, rich Coco tells the story of a young Mexican boy who dreams of life as a musician, stranded in the Land of the Dead. Themes of sacrifice for family, liberation and expression through music, remembrance and commemoration of loved ones and more are explored, and a culture that is typically ignored or stereotyped – or walled off if a certain someone has his way – is allowed to explode onto the cinema screen. It’s as warm, funny, and imaginative as anything you’ll see all year, and we adore it.

José is reminded of his dear abuelita. Mike cries.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

34 – Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Boy oh boy, there’s a lot to talk about, and the word of the day is denial. Specifically, Mike’s unspoken, subcutaneous, existential denial that 1995’s Jumanji is crucially meaningful to him, because how else can you explain the tension in the air as he grapples with the simple question, “Do you recommend the new Jumanji?” Ironic, really. The new Jumanji depicts characters who are forced to confront harsh truths about themselves, and in doing so forces Mike to confront the fact that he can talk about Jumanji for an hour with very little prompting.

And that new Jumanji provides a surprising amount of food for thought. We discuss how the film uses and satirises videogames, how much it made us laugh, the Jonas Brothers, Mike being a sucker for a happy ending as usual and José rolling his eyes, the stereotypes from which the central characters are built, how the film has its sexist cake and eats it, the ways the stars play off each other and suit their roles, aspects of performance, the muddled nature of the world and fundamental change in the characters’ relationship to it, how much harder it is to play videogames than it is to watch films, moviegoers’ over-investment in films from decades past, and last year’s Power Rangers movie.

And it’s a name-heavy edition of the podcast, with José getting names wrong left, right, and centre, and a final, authoritative correction of our pronunciation of Jia Zhangke’s name. (Thanks to Sam and Jessy Stafford for their contributions.)

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

19 – Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

We visit Sidney Lumet’s classic version of Murder on the Orient Express to compare and contrast with Kenneth Branagh’s. Which performances do we prefer, what do we make of the differences in style and tone? José, with Poirot-esque precision, interrogates Mike, because it’s his first time seeing the 1974 film, and indeed it turns out that Mike is the real murderer.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

18 – Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Innocence meets experience. Mike doesn’t know whodunnit; José remembers the 1974 adaptation fondly. Mike wants to talk plot; José wants to talk cast. Mike’s enthusiastic about the film’s Poirot-centric approach; José is less keen. Although we approach it from different angles and don’t always see eye-to-eye, we find a great deal of food for thought in Kenneth Branagh’s film of Agatha Christie’s classic novel.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

17 – The Killing of a Sacred Deer

The Killing of a Sacred Deer becomes a kind of litmus test for our morality. Mike finds Barry Keoghan’s vengeful teen hateful; to José, he’s a hero. This is a film that, under discussion, opens you up more than you are able to open it up.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

15 – Thor: Ragnarok

A new thing from Marvel. Is it better than the average thing from Marvel? The seats certainly moved, we can say that much, and that is an acceptable substitute for character and plot.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

14 – The Party

Sally Potter’s all-too-brief comedy drama polarises us, which makes a nice change to the agreements we’ve been having recently. Is it smug or knowing? Is its range of incongruous acting styles engaging or distancing? Who knows. But Sally Potter is very very very important in British cinema and feminism and queer representation, says Jose, who then has the nerve to criticise The Party for having its right-on cake and eating it.

Includes a reminiscence of seeing a man stand up in a screening of I, Daniel Blake and a magic trick where Mike convinces Jose he possesses an extraordinary memory.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.