A week in film – 2017, week 6

It’s hard to deny that this week has been my most cinematically successful since the year began. A new film, a new show, and a couple of old favourites. Exactly what I needed.

As it’s easier to start with the familiar, Singing in the Rain made it onto the week’s watchlist, as my boyfriend had never seen it before (I know). Last week prompted a bit of a modern movie musical reflection, but Singing in the Rain is peak musical – a classic of its genre, and an actual, nailed-on cinema classic. Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor are all electrifying in their roles as the starry lead making the transition to talking movies, the ingenue breaking into acting, and the sidekick respectively. The narrative, about the dawn of modern cinema, is entertaining and different. It’s the song and dance numbers, though, which makes Singing in the Rain one of the greatest movies of all time. The leading trio are the greatest of showmen and women, tapping and singing their way into history. It’s amazing to see – every song has a memorable moment, some have several, and they bring joy no matter how many times they’ve been seen. There’s a reason it’s recognised as one of the greatest films of all time.

Then there’s WALL-E, Pixar’s movie about a small trash-compacting robot tasked with clearing Earth for the humans. Except that’s barely what it’s about – it’s actually about love, companionship, environmentalism, and the dangers of capitalism. That’s always been the joy of Pixar – they’re capable of telling a simple story with so much nuance, and heart, that you take in all the deeper messages without feeling like they’re shoved down your throat. The love story between WALL-E and Eve, a robot sent from the human’s spaceship to see if Earth’s hospitable again, is so deeply touching that it’s capable of moving anyone to tears. It’s gorgeously done, adding in moments of live action amongst the animation. It’s completely wonderful, and I don’t know why I put off watching it for so long. It’s rocketed up towards the top of my list of very favourite Pixar movies.

In other animated movies – but this time a little more recent – is The LEGO Batman Movie, the spin-off from 2014’s amazing The LEGO Movie. I loved LEGO Batman in that (‘I only work in black…and sometimes very, very dark grey’) and I was glad to see him back again in his own film. It’s kind of a shame, then, that it didn’t completely land. It’s still a constant barrage of jokes, but without the same overwhelming inventiveness that The LEGO Movie had. That was a fantastic dose of vibrancy and colour…this one, by its very nature, spends so much time riffing on every existing Batman property that it can’t be that original. These riffs sometimes work really well – the film’s opening voiceover is outstanding, for example – but by the end the noise gets a little wearing, and it boils down to a vaguely standard ‘things are better with family’ narrative. It’s fun, sure, but not the kind of fun that lasts.

Then there’s my new show, Designated Survivor. The political thriller airs on Netflix UK and follows Kiefer Sutherland’s Thomas Kirkman as his designated survivor status (explained at the start of the pilot as the one from the line of succession chosen not to attend the State of the Union in case of attack) renders him President of the United States following a terrorist attack on the Capitol. I know that Designated Survivor is trash, and to some degree I’m capable of recognising it. This doesn’t change the fact that I’ve devoured the whole first half of the season in four days. This might be tame compared to my usual efforts, but I’m so much busier now, and it’s been so long since I last binged anything other than Gilmore Girls, that it feels oddly like an achievement. None of the characters really command emotional investment, and it’s stuffed with awkward, on-the-nose dialogue, but for all its nonsense the larger plot actually makes it pretty compelling. It is the perfect show (although it’s still in progress following a midseason break) to watch at night when it’s cold and dark and there’s not a lot else to do. And I gasped at the midseason cliffhanger – even though it was so heavily signposted that it hardly counted as a a surprise – while I was sat on a busy train, so there’s that level of commitment too.


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