A week in film – 2016, week 29

It’s back to film central this week. In fact, I’m not even completely certain I’ve watched Friday Night Lights. Concentration’s been an issue, sleep has been almost all-consuming, and I – shocker – haven’t quite been in the mood for teen angst. Not this kind of teen angst, anyway…(but more on that later).

Yeah, feeling a bit grim and sorry for myself thanks to a sudden and violent cold, I turned to the only film I could think of in the moment that a) wasn’t a Marvel movie (sometimes, however begrudgingly I have to admit it, they aren’t right for the job) and b) was familiar and reliable. This, then, is how I ended up watching The Incredibles for approximately the hundredth time. More accurately, this is how I saw half of The Incredibles for approximately the hundredth time (I’m still pissed off with my body for deciding to catch up on sleep at that precise moment). I saw enough, though, to know that it is one of my favourite Pixar movies. Not just because it’s superhero-based – which probably does help at least a bit – but because it’s a really good film, about family and identity and fighting for a good cause. It might not have the emotional depth of most of Pixar’s other movies, but it is still fun, and precisely what I needed to pull me through my grump.

Friday night this week was reserved for a film we all immediately agreed on (and a metric tonne of accompanying snacks). I’ve only seen When Harry Met Sally… once in my life before, during an amazing pair of Psychology A-Level lessons (we were studying relationships, guys! It was SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH!). Rewatching it again now, with six years’ more life experience and a far greater appreciation of Nora Ephron, I feel like I got a lot more out of the film – and I liked it a lot the first time around. It doesn’t take a lot to understand that Nora Ephron’s screenplay is an easily quotable wonder, creating memorable lines and believable characters. Harry and Sally meet, but it isn’t a tired meet-cute; they both have normal (and good jobs); they both screw up; and they take a really bloody long time (‘twelve years, three months’) to find each other. The same film couldn’t possibly be made now – not least because social media has pretty much put an end to a fully permanent ‘goodbye’ – but, by God, I’m glad it was made back in the eighties.

Looking for ideas for films to watch like When Harry Met Sally…, I turned to Hadley Freeman’s really bloody good book, ‘Life Moves Pretty Fast’. I didn’t really pick up another film to watch, but I did get sucked into the essays and, brilliantly, to this section in particular:

‘When I saw [Bill Murray] at the party, I didn’t even stop to think or take the time to feel shy. I just instinctively ran up to him an an unashamedly starstruck way.

‘Mr Murray, Ghostbusters is my favourite movie in the world. What is the secret of Ghostbusters’ everlasting appeal?’ I burbled breathlessly, simultaneously terrified and elated in that way you are when you meet your heroes.

He looked down at me (Murray is surprisingly tall), his hair now grey, but still as skew-wiff as Peter Venkman’s after a ghost shoot-out. For a mortifying second, I thought he’d tell me to get lost.

‘Friendship,’ he replied without a pause. And then he gave me a noogie.’

Hadley Freeman, ‘Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned From Eighties Movies (And Why We Don’t Learn Them From Movies Any More)’ (2015)

Apart from being another solid Bill Murray anecdote (I think we all dream to have a Bill Murray anecdote), this set off such a spark in my brain that I almost fell over running upstairs to write it down. This week I’ve seen the 2016 version of Ghostbusters – the rebooted version of Ghostbusters which has been receiving a faceful of slime from the internet since its female cast was announced last year. If – and who the hell am I to disagree with Bill Murray – the original endures because of its depiction of friendship, then this version stands a chance too. The friendship might be female (an OUTRAGE, I know), but it is as central and as believable as the bonds between Venkman, Ray, Egon and Winston were in its eighties predecessor. The gender of Erin, Abby, Holtzmann and Patty might change some of the nuances of the relationship, sure, but it doesn’t change the fact that the relationship just as significant – and it doesn’t stop the film being funny, either. Because Ghostbusters (2016), thank God, is funny.

Sure, there are going to be people who hate Ghostbusters. Can’t be helped. Innocuous, innocent incidents notwithstanding, the ignorant are out in full force, determined to kick this movie to death because it’s got women in. And this is SAD. It’s sad because it’s antiquated and vile, and it’s sad because they will be missing out on a movie that does reflect the tone of the Ghostbusters of their childhoods. As many comedies do, it has patches which are slightly lighter on the jokes, but the cast’s wonderful chemistry and shared charisma carries the film through. Everyone has at least two stand-out moments – Kate McKinnon has about twenty (God, I CRIED when she danced to ‘Rhythm of the Night’, and I would happily watch the scene where she busts a tonne of ghosts at least once a week forever).

I can’t deny that it has its flaws – around the third act the jokes start to fall a little flatter, and it feels too long – but all things considered, it’s not a big deal. Overall, its broader humour works for me (slightly surprising, I’ll admit), and it looks GREAT – the ghosts’ designs are smart, the action sequences fun, and the Ghostbusters’ headquarters (above a Chinese restaurant) are really cool. With strong cameos, strong performances, and strong jokes, I’m not going to be surprised if I end up watching this as much as I have the 1984 version.

Another film with strong jokes and strong performances was Obvious Child. I bought the DVD ages ago on many a recommendation, but I’ve been putting off watching it because of the content – it’s not often that ‘abortion’ and ‘comedy’ are put together in the same sentence. Obvious Child, though, is a bit of a revelation – a snarky, honest, gem of a film, with a wonderfully true performance from Jenny Slate. It’s not going to be to everyone’s tastes – it’s not the easiest of viewings, especially if you’re prone to cringing and are generally awkward – but it really got to me, with one particular mother-daughter scene making me want to beam and cry all at the same time. I’m really glad to have finally seen it.

…and then there’s Gossip Girl, which basically doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in this post. We decided to stick on the first two episodes on a total whim, and I’ve never seen anything so overblown and dramatic in my life – and I LIVE for this stuff. I shouted at the screen almost throughout, and I’m already debating which of the characters I could fancy the most. Oh yeah. This show is happening now.

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