Weird Movies & Disney: March ’17 in Film

As far as movie-watching goes, I really wasn’t all that active this month. Most of the blame could probably go to this new job I’ve had and the extra hours I’ve been putting into getting trained for the position. It’s been taking a lot of time away from watching movies, either in a theater or at home. Additionally, I’ve been more active nowadays with listening to and writing about music, giving myself a bunch of little projects to complete throughout March. While the Billboard challenge is on a bit of a hiatus (I’ll get back to it soon, I promise!), I’ve still been trying to catch up on my One Random Single A Day challenge. I’m about 84 entries deep and still need to catch up to a few more before I’m totally on track. I’m hoping to catch up by the time I reach my 120th entry, which would mark me being about a third of the way through!

On top of this, I’ve also been listening to more albums and a lot more singles. I went through a bit of a bad music phase in the latter parts of the month and binged through a whole bunch of songs considered the worst of all time. It was… interesting, to say the least. Moreover, I’ve been working my way through the stages of contemporary pop music by way of the Now That’s What I Call Music compilations. The first of these compilations was released in late 1998, and there has been 60 additions since, with the next one slated for a May 2017 release. The completist in me really wants to listen through every one of these and that’s exactly what I will do! Additionally, I gave a rewatch the the first season of Twin Peaks throughout this month, which ate up even more at the relatively little free time I already have. Still, I love that show and I can’t wait to revisit the second season throughout April!

Also, I know that these introductions are getting less and less about actual films as the months go by. I really do regret this. I really do want to get back into watching more films, though. I’m saddened by the fact that I’ve kind of fallen off certain aspirations lately, like the Letterboxd Queer Films challenge – it is such a wonderful idea but I’ve only had time to watch one such movie. I can’t promise that I’ll do better, but I do promise that I’ll keep up these monthly overviews of what I watched the previous month. Maybe I’ll even start doing some for the music I listen to each month – even though I’m sure it’ll be so much longer than these already are.

Anyway, I’ll move on with the regular stuff. Here’s a complete list of what I watched in March. As always, asterisks indicate rewatches.

  1. Laberinto de pasiones (Labyrinth of Passion) (Almodóvar, 1982)
  2. Mac and Me (Raffill, 1988)
  3. Cat in the Hat (Welch, 2003)
  4. A Very Brady Sequel (Sanford, 1996)
  5. Crimes of Silence (a.k.a. She Woke Up Pregnant) (Contner, 1996)
  6. The Brady Bunch Movie (Thomas, 1995)*
  7. Moron Movies (Cella, 1985)
  8. Rock & Rule (Smith, 1983)
  9. The Pace That Kills (a.k.a. Cocaine Fiends) (O’Connor, 1935)
  10. Logan (Mangold, 2017)
  11. A United Kingdom (Asante, 2017)
  12. Rester vertical (Staying Vertical) (Guiraudie, 2017)
  13. Jawbreaker (Stein, 1999)*
  14. The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (Hessler, 1973)
  15. Big Time (Blum, 1988)
  16. Flushed Away (Bowers & Fell, 2006)
  17. Bad Girls From Mars (Ray, 1990)
  18. Mars Attacks! (Burton, 1996)*
  19. Beauty and the Beast (Wise & Trousdale, 1991)*
  20. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Wise & Trousdale, 1996)*
  21. Big Hero 6 (Hall & Williams, 2014)*
  22. Twin Peaks: Pilot (Lynch, 1990)*
  23. Kedi (Torun, 2017)
  24. Tarzan (Buck & Lima, 1999)*
  25. The Little Mermaid (Clements & Musker, 1989)*
  26. Lady in the Water (Shyamalan, 2006)
  27. Cadillac Records (Martin, 2008)
  28. Help! (Lester, 1965)
  29. Head (Rafelson, 1968)

As the title of this post indicates, I started off March with the main intention to get back into themed months. I suddenly felt the need to watch a bunch of movies that hold the reputation of being weird in any sense of the term. I started off the month with Pedro Almódovar’s Labyrinth of Passion, which was my choice for that week’s Queer Films Challenge entry (and, regrettably, the last of the challenge I would watch all month). It felt decidedly punk rock, very gay, and generally anarchistic. Yet I did find the story to be pretty flat and nearly incomprehensible at points, meaning that I don’t enjoy this as much of some of Almódovar’s later works. Still, I’d be more than willing to give it a rewatch sometime in the near to distant future. Now to get back on that Queer Films challenge…

The weirdness really kicked into high gear with my next two viewings, however. Against my good judgment, I decided to give a rewatch to Mac and Me, especially after realizing that my boyfriend had never seen it. I remember really hating it my first viewing – not only did I find the alien designs to be putrid and cheap, but the shameless commercialism and nationalism of the entire piece also really ticked me off. With the second viewing, I simmered down a bit. Sure, all the bad parts were still just as bad as ever, but I found it more easy to digest this time around. It’s weird in all the bad ways, but being that I enjoy indulging in some truly trashy material every now and again, it doesn’t disappoint on that front.

Next, I watched the Dr. Seuss abomination, 2003’s Cat in the Hat. I was reminded in a Letterboxd review that Emmanuel Lubezki actually DP’d for this film a few years before he would find international infamy in his work with Alejandro Cuarón, Terrence Malick, and others. Yes, before all that, he did camerawork for Cat in the Hat. Even in my attempts to watch this with a 2003 mindset, it was clear that the production design and cinematography are some of the most tolerable aspects of it. Nothing about it was great, but at least these bits were fun to watch. At its worst, though, it’s dreadfully obnoxious and unfunny (and even pretty racist), with Mike Myers’ performance particularly bringing it down. This film’s bad reputation is definitely well-deserved.

Yeah, this past month wasn’t really the best one for me as far as movie-watching is concerned. I think what’s most disappoint for me is the fact that I am nowhere close to par for reaching my goal of 100 woman-directed movies by the end of the year. Still, this is the goal that I most want to accomplish by 2017’s end, so I will devote April to being all about female directors – or at least I’ll do the best I can do, given the circumstances!

In March, I watched a total of five films by women, which at least keeps me on track with the one-a-week pace that I’d normally aspire toward any other year. Anyway, two of these five were members of the same franchise – Betty Thomas’ The Brady Bunch Movie and Arlene Sanford’s A Very Brady Sequel. I had already seen the first film a couple times, and I think I can now safely rank it among my all-time favorite comedies. I grew up (begrudgingly) watching a lot of the original Brady Bunch episodes with my mom, so a lot of the satirical call-backs definitely make me laugh out loud with every single watch. The sequel is more prone toward cheap laughs and the story kind of goes off the rails in the final third, but I still found it pretty entertaining nonetheless!

I also checked out Amma Asante’s latest feature A United Kingdom. I really liked her previous film Belle, with the historical aspects of its storytelling being so delicately balanced with the love story at its core – although I’m particularly favorable of the sweeping emotion that so defined this romance. A United Kingdom had the opposite problem going for it, I think. The chemistry between the two leads felt so forced and their origin story was so rushed at the start, I didn’t get much of a sense of their love for each other throughout pretty much the entire rest of the film. Still, it’s hard to totally hate a movie that’s so indebted in its criticism of colonialism and post-colonial government rule.

The best woman-directed film I watched in March was – by far – Ceyda Torun’s Kedi. For a documentary that so simple in examining the lives of Turkish cats, this was so fascinating from beginning to end. I was amazed at a lot of the camerawork, and impressed with the determination Torun has for showing most of the cat shots from their own level, a perspective that humans often never even think to consider. Every shot of every cat is just so wonderful, it may have turned me into a cat person throughout the course of its 90 minutes. It’s just so cuddly and loving, while also being totally respectful of the unique place in this society – and many other societies – that these cats occupy, certainly unlike that of mere humans. Words can’t accurately express how wonderful this flick is – please check it out!

I love Tom Waits pretty much to an unconditional degree at this point. I dig his live album Big Time, but had no idea until very recently that there was a corresponding conceptual musical film! I watched it, and yeah, it’s pretty much as wonderful as I was expecting. Strung in between actual live performance from Waits is this really odd story that feels dream-like in its narrative circulation. It’s pretty incomprehensible for the most part, yet does contain some surprisingly surreal and even hilarious bits that simply add to the weirdness that Waits music already contains. And the live performances themselves are unsurprisingly awesome. Waits has such a odd breed of drunken charisma that I could never tear my eyes away from, and the way these performances are shot and edited further add to the entire appeal of his shtick. From what I’ve garnered, this is a pretty tough and obscure find, but if you have the means to check this out, definitely do!

For a few days, my boyfriend and I got in a bit of a rabbit hole where we went and rewatched a selection of films from the Renaissance era of the Disney canon. We started with Beauty and the Beast (after he got a hankering to watch the original after coming from the recent remake – which I still haven’t seen), and it’s pretty clear to see how this movie was such a freakin’ big deal upon release. The art design for it is rather incredible, especially for its time, and many of the songs are some of the catchiest, most well-written out of anything else from the studio. Gaston is also a pretty cool idea for a villain, in his subversion of what is traditionally considered charming and romantic – yet the implications of stockholm syndrome and shades of domestic violence that define Belle and the Beast’s romance are still as unsettling as ever. Still, I continue to hold this one to pretty high regard in my own nostalgic lens.

We also gave rewatches to The Hunchback of Notre Dame and TarzanHunchback remains my absolute favorite film of the Disney Renaissance, with its sleek artistic designs, mature themes, and exquisitely crafted music and lyrics. On the flip side, while I remember being very fond of Tarzan as a kid, this rewatch has disillusioned this view by quite a lot. Its formula is tired, the story is predictable, and the characters are just plain uninteresting. I’ve always been one to defend Phil Collins’ songs in this film, but… no, not anymore. They really are that bad.

Yet my faithfulness to Disney was restored with a rewatch of The Little Mermaid, which I was utterly obsessed with as a kid and probably haven’t seen for about ten years. Nonetheless, every single spoken and sung line came washing over me very quickly. Even though she does act pretty selfishly in the course of this film, it’s clear now that Ariel was one of the few strong female leads I had at my disposal as a kid, which could explain why I obsessionally watched this so frequently as a youngster. Well that, and because I thought Ursula was just cool and scary as hell. I always thought Prince Eric was ridiculously attractive, even as a kid, but now it’s clear that Ariel was animated to be pretty hot as well, so I guess they belong together? The story is as simple and fableish as they come, but it’s also effortlessly charming and colorful and just a fun watch from start to finish. I’m particularly nostalgic for the songs, I think, but the whole thing is just a neat encapsulation of everything I cared about when I was four. I just can’t help but love this one.

I ended the month with a weird 60s psychedelic satire double feature. I had never watched Help! before, so I finally gave that a watch. The most obvious trait it has going for it is that it is a bit of a mess. While does attempt to act as a biting parody of British imperialism and the fanatical features of cult and religion, I don’t think it does so very well. The narrative is rather sloppy, but not really in an interesting, surreal sense – more in the way that British comedy narrative attempt to pass on just nonsensical randomness, but leaves us viewers scratching our heads in the end. I also just missed the witty banter that made up some of my most favorite parts in A Hard Day’s Night. On that note, I just generally felt like I should have been watching A Hard Day’s Night during almost the entirety of Help!, which isn’t really a good thing. Of the three Beatles movies of the 60s, this one is easily the weakest.

Help! also made me somewhat nostalgic for the brilliant weirdness of Head, so I gave that a rewatch immediately afterward. Of course, this one is still awesome. I really yearn to go back in time to document the immediate reactions of people in 1968 watching this movie for the first time. I mean, it’s a movie where a band widely assumed to be a commercial studio creation places themselves in a wacky, psychedelic narrative with trippy visuals and sardonic social/political undertones. And it’s great! It’s the kind of movie where the viewer has absolutely no clue what’s bound to come next, which I think is the mark of a truly great psychedelic masterpiece. I feel like I’m on drugs while watching this, due to how much sense it all makes, despite it really making no sense at all. And thrown throughout these instances of madcap weirdness are actual performances from the actual Monkees, who are – despite the naysayers – definitely among the best bands of the entire 60s. I love it. I can’t wait to watch it twenty times more.

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