A week in film – 2016, weeks 52 and 53

OK, so, Christmas got in the way of me a bit. My body, determined to thwart my productivity plans, decided to shut down and take full advantage of the first responsibility/work/plan-free few days it had had in months and knocked me out with a cold. Then the actual holiday happened and I lost myself in free time. So, rather than rushing a post out and not being happy with it, I’m having a coffee break and sitting and writing, for the first time in ages. Consequently, the weeks are blurring into one, and I’m finishing the year with a bumper post. This wouldn’t be the first thing in 2016 which hasn’t gone to plan.

The one real perk of being sick and lacking a festive social life has been the frankly insane quantity of Gilmore Girls I’ve seen. Following the advice of friends, family, and random people on the street, I’ve rejected plans to watch ‘A Year In The Life’, instead opting to continue my binge from series five. On the 23rd December, I was around halfway through that series. By Boxing Day, I was coming close to finishing the next. Yeah, this harks back to the unhealthy uni days of TV obsession and contempt for the cold outdoors, but also a) I skipped a whole bunch where Rory dropped out of Yale, fell out with Lorelai, and continued to be an arse for eight episodes, and b) it’s so so fun to get lost in TV again. Series six is edging steadily closer to the point where Gilmore Girls isn’t actually that good – the return of Christopher heralds a really disappointing reunion storyline, and the appearance of April is, in my view, the beginning of the end – but for all their faults it’s hard not to love the Girls, and spending any time in Stars’ Hollow is a joy. I’ve seen the mother and daughter reunited, Luke and Lorelai have many, many setbacks on the course to getting married, and Rory and Logan have many, many setbacks as they embark on their casual, then serious, then concluded, then reinstated relationship. In fact, basically everything has happened to Rory and Logan at this point. I’ve really enjoyed this binge, and I only stopped because I started viewing every single part of my actual real world situation through the lens of the slightly soapy, exaggerated framework of Gilmore Girls. That is rarely a good thing.

The Gilmore Girls binge did get in the way of the Flight of the Conchords binge that I had started off on, although I haven’t stopped entirely. I’ve had the joy of watching the David Bowie episode, in which Bret has a crisis of self-confidence and dreams a series of different era David Bowies visiting him in the night to offer advice (“Get an eye-patch, Bret”). Aside from having an excellent Bowie-inspired song immediately working in its favour, it’s one of the best examples of the surreal, magnificent wonder of Flight of the Conchords. My favourite episode, though, might be Bret’s feud with Aziz Ansari’s New Zealand-hating greengrocer. The resulting rap is one of my favourite parts of the whole first series (which I’ve almost finished), especially when it basically descends into listing different types of fruit. I love that I’ve not really seen anything like Flight of the Conchords – and I’m bound to keep going until I’ve finished it all.

Then there’s the Spurling family tradition of watching a film on Christmas Eve. This year, Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters had the very very low-key honour. I still love Ghostbusters – I love Holtzmann, I love that it uses and references the 1984 film, and I like that I’m genuinely enough of a coward to find it scary and funny. Unlike the trolls, my childhood is only improved by the vindication that women can in fact bust ghosts, and I like that the film doesn’t really feel any need to tolerate these trolls in any way. The villain is basically one of them. Aside from the politics, though, it’s still a whole bunch of fun, and visually inventive with it. Not having seen the film in 3D, a DVD viewing has the added enhancement of the ghosts and the streams stretching into the black bars. It’s not something I’ve seen before, and while it took me out of the film a little bit, I liked that Ghostbusters went there.

The Christmas break also lead to a couple of new things, including Home Alone 2. I didn’t grow up with the Home Alone films. I remember watching Home Alone around this time two years ago and bitterly resenting that my call for White House Down was shouted down. I didn’t like Home Alone much after that – partly because I’m petty, sure, but also because while I can imagine that, as a kid, Kevin McCallister’s systematic violent takedown of the two burglars who break into his house is hilarious, as an adult it genuinely seems horrifying. Kevin is legit troubled. Home Alone 2 is more of the same, if not more so – and watching it with an audience mixed with longtime fans and newcomers was enormously entertaining, as everyone winced their way through the showdown in the house. As Kevin throws bricks, douses everything in kerosene, throws iron poles and tool cabinets down the stairs, electrocutes, staples and more at the robbers (this time escaped from prison and stealing from a children’s hospital, because they are also awful people), it is really bloody hard to relate to this psychotic killer in the making. Seriously, guys. Home Alones 1 and 2 are DARK.

Then, making up for last week’s failed trip (OK, I saw Rogue One, so not that much of a failure), I got the chance to see Moana. 2016’s second example of the success story that is Walt Disney Animation Studios, Moana is a wonderful story of the eponymous heroine, destined to be chief of the Polynesian island, Motunui, but yearning for the sea that she’s forbidden from exploring beyond the reef. The general plot – a princess (even if Moana technically isn’t, the film leans into – and laughs at – the comparison) wants something more than the life she’s supposed to have, and learns how to have both – isn’t exactly a new one for Disney, but Moana‘s still a lot of fun. I mean, The Rock’s in it, and he gets to sing about how awesome he(/his character) is. And the songs…from Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina, and Lin-Manuel Miranda (yaaaaassss), they’re all deeply catchy – ‘Shiny’ has been stuck in my head, and in my Spotify queue, since I saw the film last Monday. It’s Moana herself who is the real joy, though. Auli’i Cravalho (potentially a first in age-appropriate voice casting for a protagonist in a Disney animation) is incredible, and Moana has real depth and soul.

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